Emus flying high after fightback
GOONDIWINDI ended its Downs Rugby season of excellence on a heroic note at Clive Berghofer Stadium on Saturday when it overcame a stubborn Toowoomba Bears team to claim the Risdon Cup.
The Emus completed the minor premiership and cup double with a come-from-behind 27-22 grand final victory.
Bears belied their underdog status to grab an early 19-3 lead.
But they couldn't withstand the comeback of Goondiwindi which dug deep for a determined victory in an entertaining spectacle.
Matt Hayes, 18-year-old forward Marley Tane and hooker Andrew Jurgs all forced their way over for tries to have Bears in control after 25 minutes.
Goondiwindi struggled to get into stride during the first session but grabbed a crucial try four minutes from the break when Scott Baker scored at the bottom of a rolling maul to set up a 19-10 half-time scoreboard in favour of Bears.
Nine minutes after the resumption, Goondiwindi received a crucial break when Bears spilt a high kick near the halfway line.
The Emus pounced on the loose ball which eventually found its way to winger Sam Bursle to score wide out.
Pierce Saunders potted the conversion and four minutes later steered a penalty goal over to put Goondiwindi in front for the first time in the match 20-19.
Three minutes later, Matt Onus put Bears back in front with a 40-metre penalty goal.
But Bears tenuous 22-20 advantage lasted only three minutes before Saunders crossed for a well-constructed converted try and a 27-22 Emus lead.
With still around 20 minutes of play remaining, the grand final momentum had swung clearly in Goondiwindi's favour but its hard work wasn't over.
Bears threw everything at their rivals over the closing stages.
They spent almost the entire final 10 minutes camped on Goondiwindi's line looking for a match-winning try, only to be denied time-and-time again by the gallant Emus.
"Grit won it for us," euphoric Goondiwindi coach Pat Herde said. "It's been a long tough day for the club here today with four teams in grand finals.
"But these blokes love playing for each other.
"It was a tough game to finish on, but I think the boys showed what they are made of in that last 10 minutes."
Bears coach Andy McKinnon praised the Emus.
"It was a good game and our blokes gave it everything," McKinnon said.
"But full marks to Gundy. The way they came back just proves what a good side they are."
Emus lock Matt Bell was named man of the match.
GOONDIWINDI 27 (Scott Baker, Sam Bursle, Pierce Saunders tries; Pierce Saunders 3 conv, 2 pen goals) d BEARS 22 (Matt Hayes, Marley Tane, Andrew Jurgs tries; Mat Onus 2 conv, pen goal).
Toowoomba Rangers 33
d Goondiwindi 10
d Chinchilla 0
Toowoomba Rangers 24
d Goondiwindi 5