Will Wennerbottom kicked 4 penalty goals for Young in the grand final.
The South West Fuels Cup grand final between the Cootamundra Tri-Colours and the Young Yabbies was everything it promised to be and more. The game of the season saw the Yabbies crowned the champions in a 12-5 thriller.
Coota had the home crowd but the Yabbies supporters showed up in strong numbers too at Cootamundra Country Club Oval. Cootamundra Coach Mitch Wakeford said there were, “well over 1000 people at the ground on the weekend. There were roars from the crowd and we had people in the clubhouse till the wee hours of the morning.”
The game started with some dominance from Young as they pounded the Tri-Colours line for 10 minutes straight, but the defence from the Tri-Colours was too strong. A failed drop kick attempt due to the ball not bouncing on the swamp-like ground and a missed penalty conversion was all the Yabbies had to show for an ambush on the Tri-Colours line.
Twelve minutes in, the Yabbies finally got some results for their punishment of the Tri-Colours with a penalty goal.
Playing coach Wakeford described the first half by saying, “in the first half, Young dominated possession and basically pinned us down in our half the whole half. That end where we defended was the muddiest part of the field.”
Due to some impressive kicking, the Tri-Colours finally had some good field position to attack, but the combination of dropped ball and penalties for being off their feet in the ruck led to Coota rarely getting more than five phases into their attack in the opponent’s 22.
Wakeford described the ball as, “a cake of soap, it made things very difficult.”
The penalty count continued to climb in favour of the Yabbies until finally another penalty goal in the 35th minute gave the Yabbies a 6-0 lead.
“We just kept getting up off the ground and tackling. I couldn’t be prouder of the boys in the sense that we didn’t give up any tries considering the lack of ball territory we had that first half. To Young’s credit, they really covered themselves in that they put some penalty goals over and obviously pinned us down in the muddy part of the field. At the same time, I couldn’t be prouder of our defence” said Wakeford.
The frustration of the errors and the penalty count was irritating the Coota boys to a point where Matt Berkrey was yellow carded for an intentional infringement off a line break for the Yabbies.
A man down, Coota continued to show why they were undefeated all season with their strong defence only allowing one penalty goal.
Down 9-0 the Coota was running out of time for a comeback, but some exceptional Matt Berkrey kicking from the 22-metre line to the corner saw Foliga Anitelea score in the corner in the 58th minute. The conversion from the right sideline was pulled slightly left, which narrowed the margin to 9-5, with 20 minutes to go.
The next ten minutes was all the Tri-Colours, they had all the possession and were pounding through the middle of the field with some fresh legs off the bench.
A loop seemed to form as Coota pounded their way up to 15 metres out from Young’s line, Coota gave away a penalty, Young kicked it up the field to Coota’s 22 line, then repeat. The frustration of this loop caused Coota to give away more penalties due to poor discipline, giving Young another penalty goal to make it 12-5 in the 73rd minute.
Describing the stalling of his side, Wakeford said, “it just became frustrating because the ground was so muddy that basically Young did what we did, they tackled and tackled and tackled and turned us around with some good kicking. When they were tackling and defending well, it was only a matter of time before we dropped the ball, because it was so muddy and slippery.”
With time running out, Coota didn’t have many chances left, but after a penalty against Young for offside it gave Coota a chance just 22 metres out and spirits were high. Unfortunately, the stakes of the game caused a rift between opposing teams players and the chance that the Tri-Colours had was now gone.
An overturned penalty and a yellow card for five-eight Hamish Pennington was the final blow that meant Coota had been defeated.
The Tri-Colours lost their first game of the season in the biggest game of the year and while spirits were down at full-time, the Coota players were already waiting for next season.
“Full credit to Young, they played really well, their tackling, particularly in the first half and their kicking game was outstanding. They defended really well in the second half as well, just like we did in the first. I’m sure both clubs would have loved to play it on a dry pitch and they’d have their opinions on that and I’d have mine, but it is what it is. On the day, Young had the better discipline and some really good kicking, which in the end was the two reasons why they came away with the win,” said Wakeford.
Giving praise to some Tri-Colours standouts, Wakeford said, “Matt Berkery was pretty good in those conditions. Jason Cronin was really good at inside centre. He always got us over the advantage line and just kept sticking his hand up to carry the ball despite the conditions. The only thing I’m going to say is discipline, we had two blokes in the sin bin in the game, which didn’t help our cause.”
Yabbies captain Will Munday spoke about the victory saying, “It’s bloody unreal, we’ve been waiting a long time to bring her home. It’s a great feeling and a good way to get it done.”
Whilst disappointed in his team’s defeat Wakeford commends Young’s efforts saying, “They grew as a team over the last few years and they came out here and for them to win that grand final, as much as it does suck from a coaching and playing point of view, we’re happy for them because it’s just reward for a lot of hard working staff and players that have been there for a few years.”
The Cootamundra Tri-Colours will be back next April to start their campaign to capture the South West Fuels cup once again.