Another rugby league week and Woopi win another thriller
EVERGREEN winger Mark Pledger saved his best for last and engineered Woolgoolga's heart-stopping 26-24 win over South Grafton at the Sports Reserve.
Trailing by two points and with the clock counting down, Pledger took control of a Hail Mary pass from rookie halfback Joel Collinson just on his own side of half way.
With only a few blades of grass between him and the touch line, Pledger set off, forced indecision in three tacklers in his path and wrong-footed the last line of defence as he stepped in-field to score a screamer.
After his lacklustre showing against Bellingen two weeks ago, redemption was never so sweet for the amiable wingman.
"Old 'Pledge' got an idea in his head and snuck through the gap," delighted coach Steven Spencer laughed.
"Got us out of another tight spot and put us in front at the right stage."
With standard fare on offer in the first half, Woolgoolga ground its way to a 16-14 lead by intermission.
Few expected the wonderful final 40 minutes the Seahorses and Rebels were about to present.
Crashing runs up the middle were met by enormous front on hits that shook the ground.
Desperate attack was (usually) nullified by desperate, scrambling defence but after taking an enormous battering, South Grafton edged ahead in the dying stages when Dwayne Duke crossed for a second time.
The Rebels almost reigned supreme when Duke made a long break and set his sites on the try-line hoping for a third but the whistle of referee Nathan Grace sounded recall for a forward pass and the stage was set for Pledger to pull the game from the fire minutes later.
A philosophical Rebels coach Dallas Waters shook his head about what might have been a grand victory.
"Considering we were down on troops and with a few bad injuries that cost us in the end, it was still a terrific effort," he said.
"We used Matt Pye and Xavier Sullivan for their experience as we were short on depth.
"It could have gone either way and just unfortunate we didn't get the two points."
Waters still believes his side can make it interesting for a play-offs berth.
"It's an old footy saying about taking it each step at a time but we'll do what we can against Sawtell and Orara Valley in coming weeks and see what develops," he added.
For Spencer, it was another narrow squeak but the great part was the side was able to win when in a situation of adversity and in rugby league, that's a better sign of quality that winning by a street.
"Give a plug to the under-18 boys who stepped up today," he said.
"And Sione (Fangupo) out in the centres who again was sensational in defence."
WOOLGOOLGA SEAHORSES 26 (Sione Fangupo 2, Jordan Ratcliffe, Joel Collison, Mark Pledger tries; Aaron Baloh 3 goals) def SOUTH GRAFTON REBELS 24 (Dwayne Duke 2, Birrigan Young, Rhys Walters, Daniel Randall tries; Aaron Martin 2 goals)
Scrums: South Grafton 8-6
Errors: South Grafton 10, Woolgoolga 7
At Woolgoolga Sports Reserve
Referee: Nathan Grace