They left their run late, but Young Guns had the legs when it mattered, winning through to the women’s Premier League grand final in thrilling fashion, with an extra-time victory over Don Tuckwell’s Audio on Tuesday night.
Young Guns hit the front only once all night, when Caitlin Kelly crossed in the first minute of the additional period for an 8-7 win.
The team that had finished fourth on the ladder in a four-team comp had achieved a major milestone, and will play AKW Jets for the title.
“Absolutely rapt, actually… awesome effort,” coach Mark Wade said.
“It's all attitude. Three weeks ago I told them, if you come with the right attitude, we've only got to win three games and we win the grand final. We set a goal three years ago to make the Premier League grand final, and here we are.”
Young Guns looked outclassed at times early, as Madison Absolum had the minor premiers running hot, and out to a 4-1 lead. But they held their nerve, going to the break only one try down after a crucial try to Gabby O’Connell up the middle.
Tuckies defended desperately after the break and opened up a two-try lead to again appear to be in control. But Young Guns kept coming, closing to level the scores at 5-all, 6-all and 7-all, before finding space out on their left wing to grab the extra-time win.
O’Connell was super for the winners, while Madison Haggar bagged a double on the wing and saved at least as many with smart defence.
In the men’s preliminary final, defending champions MJR Electrics avoided the fate that befell Tuckies, outlasting Quolls 15-13 in a free-flowing encounter.
The influence of Campbell Lovell was evident almost immediately, as his return sparked the minor premiers into a flying start. They were up 2-0 in two minutes, and 4-2 inside seven minutes.
Quolls found space out wide to draw level at 4-all. When Josh Ashcroft threw a nice dummy to score the game’s 10th try in a little over as many minutes, the scores were locked up again.
But MJR continued to keep the tempo up and the pressure on and once they’d restored the lead in the 12th minute, never relinquished it against a never-say die Quolls.
“It shows the quality of touch in Wagga at the moment, it was a pretty high standard,” MJR coach Brocke Argus said. “Great game by our boys. Obviously having Freddy (Lovell) back’s a big in but it’s good to see the boys pulling together.”
The win ended a four-game losing streak for MJR and earns them a grand final date with The Casuals, who inflicted two of those losses.
“We went undefeated until we lost our last game last year, then we hadn't won won since,” Argus said. But he admitted it got a little close for comfort.
“They had the momentum and we were trying to slow it down as much as possible,” he said.
“In the first half we let a few tries in the middle, which hurts us a bit because our policy is not to get scored on in the middle… if they can throw that magic ball, then good on them, half their luck, but I suppose we rectified it a bit and got away with the win.”