The victorious Cherbourg Hornets and supporters sing their team song after collecting the South Burnett Grand Final trophy

August 6, 2016

Nanango’s hopes of a fairytale ending to their return to the South Burnett rugby league competition were brought back to earth with a thud on Saturday afternoon by the Cherbourg Hornets, who have now won four South Burnett premierships in five years.

Nanango scraped into the South Burnett Grand Final with a narrow last-minute win over Murgon the week before, and the many Mustangs fans at T.J. O’Neill Oval in Kingaroy on Saturday weren’t going to let them forget it.

The game didn’t get off to an auspicious start for the Stags, with a knock-on on their first touch of the ball. However, Cherbourg failed to capitalise on the error and strong Nanango defence kept them out.

Hornets’ player Lewis Hopkins drew first blood at the six-minute mark.

His try was converted by “Player of the Final” Fred Aubrey – the first of nine goals he kicked on the day.

A turning point for the Stags’ occurred soon afterwards when key player Brad Staples – who had played his heart out against Murgon the week before – suffered a knee injury and was taken from the sidelines by ambulance.

An arm-wrestle then began with neither side being able to put together back-to-back sixes.

Cherbourg twice tried to place a kick into the in-goal, only to have the ball go dead.

At the mid-way point of the half, strong Cherbourg defence foiled Nanango again, only to cave seconds later to allow Ashley Smallwood to run around and score in the corner.

But the rest of the half was all Hornets, with tries to Carl Aubrey, Norman Wragge, Gordon Fisher and Keith Gadd Jnr – all converted by Fred Aubrey.

At half-time, Cherbourg was ahead 30-4 however, after last weekend’s massive turnaround by Nanango, no one was writing off the Stags just yet.

The second half  began as a mirror to the first, with a try to Lewis Hopkins.

Cherbourg then ground on, with tries to Malachi Wallace, Hopkins (his 3rd) and Fred Aubrey, blowing out the Hornets’ lead to 52-4.

With 20 minutes left, Nanango staged a mini-revival, scoring three tries in six minutes – to Drew Jackson, Dylan Gilliland and Blake Harvey – and making the scoreboard look more respectable at 52-20.

But Cherbourg weren’t finished yet.

Carl Aubrey, Malachi Wallace and Gary Willmot put on three more tries before the final siren to take the full-time score to 68-20.

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Cherbourg tries were scored by Lewis Hopkins (3), Carl Aubrey (2), Malachi Wallace (2), Norman Wragge, Gordon Fisher, Keith Gadd Jnr, Fred Aubrey and Gary Willmot. Fred Aubrey kicked nine conversions, and Mark Saltner one.

Nanango tries were scored by Ashley Smallwood, Drew Jackson, Dylan Gilliland and Blake Harvey. Clinton Harvey kicked two goals.

The Nanango Stags enjoyed an excellent season after returning to the competition but couldn’t enjoy a fairytale ending to the Grand Final
Hornets captain Bernard Hopkins was presented with the trophy by SBRL president Greg Pomfret
Nanango Stags’ Ashley Smallwood was named Player of the Season
Cherbourg player Fred Aubrey with daughter Lesley after the game … Fred was overcome with emotion as he accepted the trophy for Player of the Final and the Charles “Chaz” Williams Memorial Shield for ‘Best & Most Respected Player”; Chaz, a well-known local footballer, died in 2015 and the shield is presented in his honour by the Williams family

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Nanango captain Joel Smallwood led the Stags on to the field through a guard of honor
Cherbourg fans made sure their players were also enthusiastically welcomed onto the field

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Lewis Hopkins loses a boot as he opens Cherbourg’s account with a try under the posts … this was the first of three tries he scored in the grand final
Carl Aubrey scores the Hornets’ second try
Norman Wragge clocks up try number three for Cherbourg

Gordon Fisher gets away from the Nanango defence to score Cherbourg’s fourth try
Fullback Keith Gadd Jnr ran the length of the field for Cherbourg’s fifth try, just on half-time
A pass out the back door for Nanango just metres from the line … but no points
Drew Jackson makes no mistake as he grounds the ball on the line in the second half to score Nanango’s second try for the game …
… three minutes later Dylan Gilliland scores in the corner for Nanango …
… and another three minutes later, Blake Harvey takes off and scores for the Stags

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