Penalty goal delivers Woopi a win over Bello in a thriller
A DRAW between Woolgoolga and Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo would have been a fair and most honourable result for a Group 2 rugby league nail-biter.
However, the Seahorses received one lucky break more than the Magpies and kicked a penalty in the dying seconds to engineer a 30-28 win at the Sports Reserve.
An arm wrestle from the start, the tension went sky high in the final 15 minutes when both teams botched opportunities to seal victory.
In the 65th minute, Bellingen replacement Corey Sinclair fell across the line but referee Deon Aldridge ruled he'd lost control of the football.
Three minutes later, a kick into the Woopi quarter was inexplicably allowed to bounce by fullback Jack Mander and Magpie five-eighth Larnis Leisha grabbed possession to touch down for what most thought could be the game-breaker.
Again, referee Aldridge intervened and ruled Leisha off-side ... so no try.
It was then Woolgoolga's turn to spill possession across the stripe with two minutes remaining, leading to the final penalty that saw stand-in half back Ayden Baloh coolly pot the winning points from 35 metres out.
The effort took plenty out of the home side, keeping in mind last week's mauling by the Comets had already forced six changes to the roster and coach Steven Spencer admitted next Sunday's general bye is the freshener he's been waiting for.
Still, he wouldn't agree his men had gone into the contest with low morale.
"No, it was the injury list and being forced to put blokes in positions where they hadn't played before," Spencer said.
"We tried to go back to a basic game plan but losing Dean Janda and Adam Slater for long periods it upset our momentum.
"I give the boys credit for the way they stuck together."
Spencer had heart flutters when Bellingen went so close to taking control near the end but felt the last touch was something like karma.
"A bit of luck, that was all we needed," he said.
"It came and we won."
For Bellingen coach and keen racing man Maurie Hulbert, the pride he expressed in his men was tinged with the obvious disappointment of going down in a photo finish.
The Magpies showed enormous character when Woolgoolga ramped up for one last effort and repelled wave after wave of attackers off their try line in four consecutive sets.
There was no breach.
"My blokes are little and the need to defend for so long made a difference," Hulbert said.
"But it's been the story all year.
"For the blokes to run up 28 points against a highly-rated lot like Woopi shows what they are made of.
"And also to hold them to just two more than us."
WOOLGOOLGA SEAHORSES 30 (Clark Webb, Fui Vea, Vili Jnr Ieru, Leslie Paloua, Matt Field tries; Ayden Baloh 5 goals) def BELLINGER VALLEY-DORRIGO MAGPIES 28 (Richard Nui 2, Wade Davis, Larnis Leisha, Corey Sinclair; Luke Beaumont 4 goals)
Scrums: Woolgoolga 14-8
Penalties: Woolgoolga 10-8
Errors: Woolgoolga 11, Bellingen 10
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