Shoals 3rd Grade side on Saturday proved too solid for a willing Bowral team that had defeated them a few weeks ago. Gone was the hesitancy in their play as they absorbed an enormous amount of pressure, tackled with rare vigour and moved the ball around with sharp deftness. They led 10-5 at the break. In a second half low on points but high on drama, Shoals kicked a penalty goal to take the match 13-5.
The two teams went hammer and tong in the opening half, playing like this was the grand final. The tackling was at times brutal while the pace of play was unrelenting. Michael Dun in the centres pulled off a great defensive tackle that stopped an enterprising raid by Bowral. However Bowral kept up the pressure. At the 10-minute mark they secured a lineout near Shoals’ line from a penalty kick and then used their forwards to bash and barge for the line. From the ruck the ball was quickly spun across the back line and their winger raced over for a try wide out.
Shoals retrieved the ball from the restart through a great piece of individual brilliance by winger Tim George who made ground then passed to a flying Tim Murphy to take play inside the quarter. From the ruck Matt Lane, half back, popped a neat chip kick over the top and a favorable bounce was gathered in by Ben Dennis, who had an outstanding game in both attack and defence, to race over for a try. The conversion attempt swung wide and the scores were locked at 5-5.
Shoals had by far the better of play in the final part of the half. They attacked through their energetic and hard running forwards to take play close to Bowral’s line. After a series of hit-ups, evergreen Shoals’ stalwart, Dave Sproule, took the ball from a ruck and powered his way over the line. Shoals went to the sheds leading 10-5.
The second half of the match was a tense affair as the teams threw everything into securing the win. Bowral hammered Shoals’ try line for the first 10 minutes of the half. Shoals’ defence proved up to the task with Tim Murphy, Joe Calcraft and Jason Vaughan standing out with their ball-and-all tackling.
Finally Shoals gained a few penalties and they in turn went hard on attack. It was not until the 20-minute mark that the deadlock was broken when Matt Lane steered over a penalty goal from short range to take his team to their 8-point lead. Bowral charged into action from the restart in an effort to get back into the match but Shoals’ defence again was up to the task and thwarted their every attempt.
So Shoals move into their second grand final in a row and will seek back-to-back premierships. Their opponents next Saturday (11am) at WIN Stadium will be Camden who defeated the Wollondilly White Waratahs.