Nowra-Bomaderry 30 Warilla 20
Rugby league is set to take off again in the Shoalhaven after the Nowra-Bomaderry Jets upstaged favourites Warilla 30-20 in Sunday’s grand final.
The Jets completed one of the competition’s more amazing transformations in recent years, coming from last spot in round five to win the club’s first premiership.
Warilla lost once during the regular season and were the first team through to the grand final.
Nowra-Bomaderry took the bumpy road, losing to Shellharbour in the opening week of the finals before bouncing back with a last-second win over 2013 champions Gerringong in the minor semifinal.
They came from behind to beat Shellharbour in the final and saved their best for last against the minor premiers.
Nowra’s last premiership was in 1996 when they competed as the Warriors.
Rugby league had all but died in the Shoalhaven over the past decade or so before Nowra and Bomaderry put aside their differences and merged two years ago.
Just reaching the grand final had already made the Jets heroes in the eyes of their passionate throng of followers.
But the team wasn’t satisfied just being there. They shocked the Gorillas by confidently hammering out a 20-0 lead and had enough in their reserve tank to finish the game strongly after the margin was cut to four points with 25 minutes remaining.
The party is expected to last all week among Jets fans.
‘‘It’s a real big thing for the Nowra community. It’s unbelieveable,’’ Jets captain-coach Ben Wellington said.
‘‘It’s one of those things that brings everyone together and makes them believe. When the feeling started building during the semis, everyone jumped on board. Everyone was talking about it everywhere I went during the week.’’
Most of the pre-game talk centred around Warilla’s big forward pack’s expected dominance.
But the Jets matched their opponents in the middle and played with their usual attacking flair out wide.
Halfback Geoff Johnson kept the Gorillas guessing all day with a masterful kicking display.
A crowd of just over 4000 attended and Group Seven officials hailed the first grand final at Collegians Sports Centre a runaway success.
Winger Mark Brandon scored the game’s first try and converted for a 6-0 lead after five minutes.
Hooker Kurt Quinlan’s converted try made it 12-0 before Brandon’s penalty goal stretched the lead to 14-0.
When five-eighth Steve Brandon scored a scintillating 80m try a few minutes later, Nowra-Bomaderry’s lead was 20-0 and Warilla fans were staring in disbelief.
But prop Damien Paulissen crashed over under the posts for the Gorillas and centre Tyson Brown went over out wide two minutes later. Craig Nolan converted both tries to make it 20-12 at half-time.
Warilla appeared to have all the momentum when Brown went over for his second try, but the Jets hit back with winger Keiran Brandon’s try and a converted try to fullback Isaac Mumberson for a 30-16 lead.
Paulissen, who was playing his final game, went over for his second try with two minutes left to cut the final margin to 10.
‘‘To be up 20-0 early against these guys was just incredible,’’ Wellington said.
‘‘Our game plan was to hold the ball for the first four and then get a kick-chase. We stayed hard in the middle and ran away with it out wide.
‘‘Because they’re a big group, we thought we’d turn them around. It worked in the first 20 but then they came back at us because they started thinking about where we were playing them. They started closing that, so we started coming in the middle again. It’s like chess.
‘‘Full credit to our boys. We had a good preseason and I drilled that mental toughness into them and it worked it’s way out to the end of the season. The boys put in the hard work, they earned it.’’
Warilla coach Peter Hooper was gracious in defeat.
‘‘They were outstanding,’’ Hooper said.
‘‘We didn’t execute the way we would’ve liked but there’s no excuses from our department today. They continued to keep the ball away from us and completed their sets. Hats off to them.
‘‘We just didn’t get any continuity throughout the game. It’s just one of those things that happens on grand final day sometimes unfortunately. We just didn’t have any possession and you can’t win games with no possession. Full credit to the Jets. Great job by Ben Wellington. There’s two clubs and they’ve united for one, so good luck to them.
‘‘I couldn’t ask for any more from my blokes. They train hard and do everything to be as professional as they can, and unfortunately we just didn’t get the money today.’’
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