Brad Patrick bagged a double, including the match-winner in golden point, to secure Manildra a third straight Woodbridge Cup youth league crown on Sunday.
But for Canowindra, it’s not the way it was supposed to end.
The Tigers scored in the final two minutes of the youth league grand final at Jack Huxley Oval, the Zak Lees pearler drawing the black and golds level with the undefeated Manildra Rhinos at 14-all.
As time wound down, the attempted two-pointer from right next to the sticks should have won Canowindra the title.
But Tigers hooker Hayden Cummings slipped in his approach and the conversion attempt spewed left, sending the game into extra-time where things didn’t get any better for the Canowindra boys.
Manildra received the kick-off and worked the ball up field before Harry Pearce produced a generic down-field kick designed to pin the Tigers in their own half.
It did more than that.
The Canowindra fullback fumbled the ball right in the arms of the flying Patrick who scored the match-winning try in golden point, handing Manildra an 18-14 victory and the 2018 premiership.
The bounce of the ball literally didn’t go Canowindra’s way in the biggest game of the season, but the Tigers earned plenty of admirers for their huge effort against the mighty Rhinos.
“The games have started to get closer as the season went on and we knew we were in a battle,” Manildra coach Scott Campbell said.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride. We’ve had three years out there and this is our third win in a row.
“There’s been a bit of expectation but having the crowd and support here has been good.”
Campbell praised Patrick’s unwavering commitment to nailing the basics, his chase on the Pearce kick in extra-time enabling him to become the club’s grand final hero.
“He’s done that a few times this year. He’s always working hard. We’re really proud of everyone, it’s a really big effort,” Campbell said.
As coolly as he picked up the ball and planted it down for the match-winner, Patrick’s calm facade hid a bevy of frantic emotions.
It’s not bad for my first year with the Rhinos, two tries in a grand final.Rhinos grand final hero Brad Patrick.
“The first thing that came to mind was I hope I grab it and don’t drop it,” he laughed.
“It’s not bad for my first year with the Rhinos, two tries in a grand final.”
Patrick’s first try helped lift Manildra to 14-10 lead after the Canowindra boys had rocketed to a 10-4 advantage on the back of a horrible period for the hosts.
Manildra lost Josh Standing to the sin bin and then a matter of moments later Peace, the 2018 youth league player of the year, was helped from the field.
56 | INCREDIBLE!!— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) September 2, 2018
Manildra has what would have been a match-winning try pulled back for a forward pass before Tigers skipper Zac Lees runs 50m to score a cracking individual try.
Hayden Cummings then MISSES the goal from in front!!
It's 14-all. #WoodbridgeCup
The double blow gifted the Tigers momentum, and it netted tries to Jarrad Wilson and Ryan Kelly in quick succession.
But once the Rhinos wrestled back the ascendancy, and the luck, the red and white prevailed.
“That was a bloody tough one,” Tigers coach Dan Middleton smiled.
“I thought we had it with that conversion at the end there but it just missed, the full-time buzzer went and we came up with a pretty good speech leading into the extra-time but couldn’t get it done. It was the bounce of the ball,”
The 2018 season is Middleton’s first in charge of the club’s youth league outfit and he was super proud of their campaign.
“We almost had them, we defended like animals, we didn’t stop,” he added.
“It’s been a massive year, they had a heap of fun and I had a heap of fun. They should be very proud.”
- MANILDRA RHINOS 18 (Brad Patrick 2, Hayden Whiteman, Brodie Johnston tries; Trent Fliedner goal) def CANOWINDRA TIGERS 14 (Zak Lees, Jarrad Wilson, Ryan Kelly tries; Zak Lees goal)