Wallabys advance with win over Valleys
RUGBY LEAGUE: An injury-hit Wallabys have scraped home 32-24 against Valleys in the Rockhampton Rugby League reserve grade elimination semi-final at the weekend.
Trailing 18-16 at half-time, Wallabys scored three tries to one in the second stanza to secure the eight-point victory at Rockhampton's Browne Park.
Fullback Jake Gower stepped up in the absence of influential five-eighth Matt Baker, who is out for the season with a chest injury, scoring two tries alongside back-rower Ben Kerr, who scored twice after half-time.
The performance of Kerr was particularly pleasing for Wallabys player/coach Ashley Dodd.
"Ben's played with a few injuries this year but has been playing through it and getting treatment for it too,” Dodd said.
"When he's there he's a really good defensive back-rower and runs the ball hard. He's had hamstring and shoulder trouble all year but the hamstring has been plaguing him.
"He got through the game alright so we'll just assess him this week and see how he goes.”
Josh Clark partnered Dodd in the halves with Baker missing and will fill that void for the remainder of the season.
"Josh came in mid-year and he's had a few injuries too. We've been scraping the side's together but we've been winning. We lost big front rower Jacob Campbell last week as well,” Dodd added.
"We've been hit pretty hard with injuries lately and limped into the finals.”
Valleys opened the scoring through Craig Woolcott inside the opening minutes although Wallabys managed to cancel that out moments later when Gower crossed for a 6-4 lead.
Another converted try to Gower and a four-pointer to Ernie Nardoo opened up a 16-6 lead at the midway point of the first half.
However, tries to Dennis Roeser and Nathan Hitchcock late in the first half handed the Diehards at slender two-point lead at the break.
Dodd said the turning point for his side came after half-time.
"We had a couple of back-to-back defensive sets on our line which was the turning point early in the second half. They had us on the line and we held them at bay - our scramble and line defence was really good,” he said.
"Our second halves are generally pretty good because we've played ourselves into a bit of match fitness and the back end of our games are really good now - we can maintain our efforts for longer.”
Wallabys restored the advantage after the break when the bustling Kerr crashed over for the first of his two tries before Dan Beahan scored to take Wallabys out to a 10-point lead.
Not to be outdone, Valleys struck back with Roeser again scoring and Rance Coop adding the extras to bring the deficit back to four points.
But that was as close as Valleys would come as Kerr scored his second try to wrap up the match and see Wallabys into the second week of finals.
Dodd says his side isn't phased with who they come up against in the Week 2 qualifying final, knowing that Wallabys can match it with any side in the reserves competition.
Wallabys 32 (Jake Gower 2, Ben Kerr 2, Ernie Nardoo, Daniel Beahan tries; Dylan Lawson 2, Jamie Powell 2 goals) def. Valleys 24 (Dennis Roeser 2, Craig Woolcott, Nathan Hitchcock tries; Rance Coop 3, Hitchcock goals).
Meanwhile, Gladstone Brothers under-20s defeated Valleys U20s 56-24 in their elimination semi-final on Saturday.
Tyrone Davis scored a hat-trick with Kaena Truskett and William Docherty scoring doubles.
Gladstone Brothers 56 (Tyrone Davis 3, Kaena Truskett 2, William Docherty 2, Brandon Steele, Logan Pengelly, Dane Corson-Crook tries; Jack Breadsell 8 goals) def. Valleys 24 (James Cody, Thomas Gaston, Kane Heisner, Mason Collette tries; Gaston 4 goals) at Browne Park, Rockhampton. Half-time: 22-6 Brothers.