THE Moruya Sharks reserve grade side snatched a minor semi-final victory from the Bega Roosters in a thrilling encounter at Bill Smyth Oval, Narooma on Sunday.
Bega’s side was brimming with first grade experience and the Sharks would have to overcome Bega’s size advantage to survive sudden death.
The game began well for Moruya with a quick try to fullback Aaron Russell who had chimed into the backline to force his way over the white stripe.
Nathan McDiarmid converted the first four-pointer for a 6-nil lead.
The Sharks had the better of the first 20 minutes, dominating field position with a good completion rate and were aided by two brilliant 40-20 kicks from Matt Jones.
A big deficit in the penalty count allowed Bega to gain more possession and field position, resulting in a four-pointer late in the first half.
At half-time Moruya led 6-4.
In the second half the penalty count kept mounting against the Sharks, and with fatigue becoming a factor, Bega began to dominate field position.
It eventually resulted in points with Bega scoring adjacent to the posts to take a 10-6 lead.
The Sharks remained composed and eventually started to get an even share of possession.
Winger Shaun Staples benefited from the attacking play and crossed out wide to level the game at 10-all.
Following the try the Sharks had poor ball security and gifted the Roosters field position.
Bega took advantage by crossing wide out for what could have been the winning try with five minutes remaining and a 14-10 lead.
The Sharks made their last push and remained composed, forcing several line drop outs for repeat sets.
The breakthrough came with one minute on the clock as the Sharks swung the ball wide before a deft grubber by Mervyn Brierley had the
ball rolling around the in-goal.
Bega could not ground the ball and a toe-ahead by Jones set up Brierley who dived on the loose ball, scoring the levelling try 20 metres to the side of the posts.
McDiarmid, ever so coolly, lined up the conversion and to the Sharks’ delight, watched the ball sail between the posts, snatching a last-gasp 16-14 win.
Sharks secretary John Cornall believed the reserve grade side deserved their chance to play for a grand final appearance.
“The Sharks were committed and determined all day,” Cornall said.
“Among the best for the Sharks were Jones, Mervyn Brierley, Joey Brierley and Russell.
“The forwards as always were led by Brent Ayton, ably supported by Jeffrey Gamble who was almost unstoppable at times.”
Captain/coach Juy Cooper was pleased by the Sharks’ teamwork throughout the game.
“It was a whole team effort and everyone played their part in what was undoubtedly the best victory this season,” Cooper said.
“Most pleasing was that we competed for the whole 70 minutes without clocking off for short periods.”
The reserves booked a place in the final against the loser of next week’s major semi-final between minor premiers Eden and Candelo-Bemboka.
Cooper was not concerned about who the Sharks would face.
“I know we are capable of beating either side if we play as well as we did against Bega,” he said.
Narooma overpowered Eden 40-16 to book its place in the first grade final against the loser of Moruya and Bega.
On Sunday, Group 16 action moves to Ack Weyman Oval where the Sharks host the major semi-final games.
The Sharks will play the Roosters for the right to be first into the grand final, and the game will kick off at 2.15pm.
The under 18s clash between Bega and Merimbula-Pambula kicks off at 10am.
The league tag game between Bega and Cooma follows and Eden and Candelo-Bemboka play the reserve grade match.