Brilliant Brad beats the bell
By GREG WHITE
A BLOCKBUSTER was promised for yesterday's clash between Orara Valley and Woolgoolga at Coramba Colliseum and for the first 75 minutes the combatants delivered by the bucket load.
But that was nothing like the tension and excitement in the final moments as the clock ticked toward full time.
With scores deadlocked 28-all after a 'thriller' and an anti-climatic draw in the offing, Woolgoolga's Arthur Murray attempted to snatch victory with failed field goal attempts in the 76th and 77th minutes.
Then, the tension was ramped up till it almost went off the radar.
Two plays into a set of six near the Orara goalposts, the whistle of controversial referee Kurt Taylor sliced through the racket of noise coming from the crowd.
Claiming the ball had been stripped, a penalty in front that would surely seal the win was handed to Woolgoolga.
Orara captain-coach Matt Donovan voiced his disapproval and was sin binned by referee Taylor.
Not content to go quietly, or so the referee says, Donovan was recalled to be given his permanent marching orders.
"No way did I abuse him," Donovan said, indicating he will contest the charge at tonight's judiciary hearing.
The great centre walked with head bowed toward the dressing shed and Arthur Murray landed the penalty that should have pulled the Seahorses out of the fire for a two-point victory.
Instead, it was straight into the frying pan.
Within two tackles of the resumption and with seconds remaining, the Axemen found themselves pushing the Woolgoolga try line.
Enter walking, talking legend - Brett Davis - who spied an ever-so-slight gap and chip kicked towards the in goal.
As Davis snatched at the rolling ball and sped under the Woolgoolga defence, referee Taylor awarded the winning try.
32-30, game set and match to the Axemen.
But was there some doubt about a possible double movement in the winning try?
"No way, boss," Davis insisted with a grin from ear to ear and a glint in his eye.
"Kick, catch, roll over and score with one movement.
With the crowd now in silent disbelief, Donovan was called from the dressing room and appeared stunned at the verdict before punching the air in delight.
"We've been on the rollercoaster today," he grinned after privately venting his spleen over the events of the final exchanges.
No question the Axemen's best quality of the afternoon was defence, something Donovan agreed was planned in advance as a key ingredient of success.
"We've started showing confidence in each other and this gives a good roll-on," he said.
"The routine is coming back and I'm really pleased the forwards laid the foundations.
"We capitalised on the edge of the rucks and scored tries, just how it was planned."
In spite of the controversial finish, Seahorses president Chris Hughes spoke for most club supporters when he explained their were no hard feelings.
"We had our chances," he said.
"There are no excuses."
Head coach John Cross was in full agreement.
"I had a feeling deep down we may struggle so I'm not disappointed," he said.
"You talk about some of the Orara blokes being old," he chided this correspondent, "but when you face a team led by three of the greatest players ever to take the field around here, sometimes you finish on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
"We didn't start well but I'm ecstatic my blokes fought back to put themselves in a position where they could have taken the game.
"Probably one of our better efforts of the year even though the result didn't go our way."