Wallabys grind out back-to-back titles
By CRAIG ROSScraigr@gladstoneobserver.com.au
WALLABYS claimed back-to-back Valery-Noonan Shield A grade rugby league pre-season titles with a grinding 24-18 victory over Gladstone Brothers at Marley Brown Oval yesterday.
Although not a spectacular affair, the pre-season final was battled out in a uncompromising manner with crunching defence a feature.
The early stages of the match, in particular, were dominated by defence with only a penalty goal by Brothers fullback James Radloff separating the sides.
The first four-pointer did not ar-rive until the 26th minute when Wallabys five-eighth Matt Baker floated a perfect pass to prop Mat Rogers who put winger Grant Stokes over to score.
A booming Baker conversion gave Wallabys a 6-2 advantage which they let slip in the 35th minute when Radloff found them napping on the blind side on their tryline, darting out from dummy half to level the scores at 6-6 which remained the halftime score.
Wallabys kicked ahead in the 51st minute when fullback Ashley Dodd found Farrar in support to set up a 12-6 lead.
Wallabys' advantage was shortlived with Brothers hitting back three minutes later through fiveeighth Clint Docherty. Radloff's conversion left the scores again level at 12-12.
Brothers looked to be gaining control of the match when, in the 60th minute, second-rower Todd Martin bumped off one tackler and carried two with him before offloading for winger Ben Dowdle to score. A Radloff sideline conver-sion gave Brothers an 18-12 lead.
Just as Brothers had done, Wallabys were quick to hit back with winger Drew Palmer picking up a Baker pass off his toes and diving over the line in the one motion to score in the corner.
Another excellent Baker conversion again drew the sides level before Wallabys scored the winning try in the 69th minute when centre Chris Butler scored.
Wallabys interchange forward Ray Kaestner was awarded player of the match for his wholehearted performance while Brothers lock Will Jarvis also stood out.
Earlier Wallabys had also won the reserve grade encounter 38-34.
Wallabys 24 (Grant Stokes, Aaron Farrar, Drew Palmer, Chris Butler tries, Matt Baker 4 goals) d Gladstone Brothers 18 (James Radloff, Clint Docherty, Ben Dowdle tries, Radloff 3 goals).