Bowral hold off Uni to book Illawarra Rugby Union grand final berth

Tough loss: University's season is over after they fell to Bowral in Saturday's preliminary final. Picture: Adam McLean.
Tough loss: University's season is over after they fell to Bowral in Saturday's preliminary final. Picture: Adam McLean.

Bowral coach Gene Fairbanks has urged his side to repeat the defensive effort that saw them hold off a gutsy University in Saturday’s Illawarra Rugby preliminary final. 

The 25-18 victory fired the Blacks into next Saturday's grand final at WIN Stadium and set up a date with Avondale. 

After the Wombats crushed Bowral in last weekend’s major semi-final, Fairbanks knows his team must deliver the defensive effort and intensity seen on Saturday if they are to upset the minor premiers. 

“We were really pleased with the result, it was a good outcome for the guys and they played very well,” Fairbanks said. 

“It was definitely an improvement on last week. All the energy was back, that will to win. We still haven’t put our finger on what happened, but in the end we held ourselves accountable, the guys trained had, warmed up well and it was a great performance against a good Uni side. 

“Something was lacking last week, but it will be there for the grand final. It’s the big show for the boys, to have first and second grade there is a real thrill for the group.”

Saturday’s match saw the lead change hands multiple times, with both teams taking the upper hand at times throughout the game. However it was University who had the lion’s share of the possession and territory, with Bowral forced to defend their own line for significant periods of time. 

With so few opportunities to strike, Fairbanks was impressed by his team’s execution when they did find themselves in a point-scoring opportunity. 

“Our defence was very good, we held Uni out for some long raids in own half. The boys defended multiple phases against a good attacking unit, which was really pleasing. We’ve worked hard on our defence this year. You can still be good at defence but if the attitude isn’t there, it doesn’t work. The attitude was there Saturday.

“In attack, the boys tactically were very good. They noticed Uni were having four guys back and there was some space to attack on the edges, Christian [Vainerere] and the backs did well.” 

Ultimately the game came down to the final 10 minutes, with University desperate to secure the game-tying score. Like it did when the sides clashed a fortnight ago, the Bowral defence held firm. 

“Uni had all the territory, we hardly played any football in their half. We got in front and held on for the last 10 minutes at the final scoreline. With just a try the difference, we had to continue to defend very well for the whole game.”

While disappointed they were unable to make the most of their opportunities, University coach Dion Miller was proud of his team’s effort in both Saturday’s game and the season as a whole. 

“We didn’t hit our straps like we wanted to,” Miller said. “Bowral were outstanding, they kept the pressure on and made the most of their opportunities, unfortunately we didn’t. I thought we had a plan to combat them, but it never panned out for us, Bowral are well-deserved grand finalists.”