IT ENDED in controversy but nothing could split Junee and Cootamundra at the end of physical 80 minutes at Laurie Daley Oval.
After an uninspiring first half riddled with errors, the game came alive in the second stanza on Sunday.
The Bulldogs put on a show for the first 16 minutes of the second half before the Diesels charged back into the contest.
Cootamundra co-coach Luke Berkrey was left fuming when the final whistle was blown but could only lament what could have been.
“With a couple of minutes to go we just switched off and gave them a chance to get back into it,” Berkrey said.
“The effort was there and I’m not going to blame the ref but a few things didn’t go our way.
“We had a few things go against us, but you have to be mentally tough enough to get ourselves in a spot to win.”
After Steven Willoughby pounced on a Shannon Rupapere grubber kick to level things up three minutes before the break, the Bulldogs scored three quick tries after the resumption to lead 24-10 with 23 minutes to go.
A try in the corner to Tristan Dickson two minutes later put the Diesels within 10 points, before the Bulldogs thought they’d scored again.
It looked as though Jordyn Ballard had crossed for what would have been the winning try when he spun through the defences of Matt Hands, only for Scott Muir to blow a penalty for obstruction.
There was more drama surrounding the man in the middle when he sin binned Rupapere for a professional foul for holding down a player too long with just over 10 minutes to play.
Hands pounced two plays later to go over from close range and in the next set Junee spread it wide before Will Merritt locked things up with six minutes to play.
The Bulldogs have a number of opportunities to seal the win late, but two field goal attempts fell short before Forsyth’s second attempt was charged down in the final minute of the game.
Cootamundra tried to pack a scrum with 10 seconds remaining, but the Diesels pushed hard and the siren went before the Bulldogs had the chance to set another one to finish the game in a stalemate.
JUNEE 24 (T Dickson 2, L Sweeney, M Hands, W Merritt tries; T Dickson 2 goals) drew with COOTAMUNDRA 24 (L Berkrey, S Willoughby, T Bush, J Ballard, M Forysth tries; S Rupapere, A Byrne goals)
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