September 13, 2017
Murgon fans were ecstatic on Saturday and no wonder … it’s almost 15 years since a Mustangs captain hoisted the South Burnett Rugby League trophy in triumph at the end of a senior Grand Final.
The Grand Final between last year’s Premiers Cherbourg and Murgon was played on the neutral turf of Wondai Sportsground.
There was a festive atmosphere at the ground with blue and white balloons everywhere, a sea of orange supporters, and even a jumping castle for the kids.
Spectators filled the ground, including in some temporary stands erected for the occasion.
The Mustangs players would have been confident they had the measure of the Hornets after only losing in the final minute to them in the Major Semi-Final a fortnight ago.
But this had set them up for a tough Preliminary Final game against Nanango last week which they only won at the deathknell.
The Hornets, in comparison, were coming into the game rested after a week off.
Cherbourg Mayor Arnold Murray conducted a Welcome To Country ceremony and a minute’s silence was held before the players ran on to the field through guards of honour formed by their fans.
The first casualty in Saturday’s Grand Final between Cherbourg and Murgon was unexpected.
Referee Joe Dangerfield had to be assisted off the field with an ankle injury before a point had been put on the scoreboard by either team.
Ironically, his replacement, Scott Kapernick, also took a tumble much later in the game but elected to stay on the field despite a limp.
As ground announcer Bob Coleman noted, it seemed to be open season on referees …
A Grand Final between Murgon and Cherbourg – who finished the season with equal points on the ladder – was always going to be exciting armwrestle, and the players didn’t disappoint.
It was high-scoring and the kicking by Cherbourg’s Lewis Hopkins, in particular, was magnificent.
The Hornets opened the game strongly, with tries within a few minutes to Fred Cobbo and Nathan Gadd; Lewis Hopkins converted both and the score was 12-0.
But then just four minutes later, Murgon did the same … Coby Sullivan and then Carl Aubrey scored and Jameel Sullivan kicked both goals.
The scores were locked at 12-all.
At the mid-point of the half – and after some tough lead-up work – Thomas Simpson muscled his way over the line to break the deadlock for the Hornets; Hopkins converted and Cherbourg were back in the lead.
This looked like it would be the half-time score until Keith Gadd Jnr received a sharp pass from Bernard Hopkins in front of the posts and went over. Lewis Hopkins’ kick after the siren was good, so Cherbourg went into the break ahead 24-12.
After the game resumed, Gadd scored again almost immediately. Lewis Hopkins made it five out of five conversions, extending the Hornets’ lead to 30-12.
But there was no way Murgon were going to be daunted by that scoreboard.
First Michael Giles forced his way over the line, followed only minutes later by back-to-back tries by Norman Neliman. Sullivan kicked two out of the three conversions, putting Murgon just two points behind, 30-28.
With 26 minutes left, a Cherbourg player was sent off for a dangerous tackle which left the Hornets’ defence stretched at times against a Mustangs team that was full of running.
Two minutes later, Barwoo Fisher scored near the posts for Murgon, putting the Mustangs into the lead for the first time. Sullivan added the extras to give Murgon a four-point lead.
However, Cherbourg weren’t about to quit, either.
Gadd scored his third try of the day to again even the scores, 34-all. Hopkins’ kick put the Hornets back in the lead with about 19 minutes to go.
A few minutes later, Maurice Fisher crossed for Cherbourg. Hopkins kicked his seventh goal of the day to make the score Cherbourg 42, Murgon 34.
As the minutes ticked down, neither side looked to be making headway, with attacking runs and desperate defence.
With eight minutes to go, Carl Aubrey made a breakthrough run to score his second try and narrow the gap to 42-38.
Hornets’ players were starting to look anxious, with one warning quite loudly: “We could lose this!”
And so it proved.
Four minutes later Mustangs’ Barwoo Fisher grabbed possession of the ball deep in his own quarter and ran almost the length of the field with Hornets in hot pursuit.
He grounded the ball under the posts, setting up an easy conversion for Sullivan; Murgon were back in the lead, 44-42.
Despite desperate attacks by Cherbourg on the Mustangs’ line in the next few minutes, that was the score when the full-time siren sounded.
Player of the Final: Barwoo Fisher
Nanango Stags dominated the U16s Grand Final against Cherbourg.
The young Hornets looked to be still recovering from their tough Preliminary Final game against Kingaroy the week before.
The half-time score was Nanango 22, Cherbourg 0 which was not a true reflection of the distance between the sides.
With 15 minutes to go, the Hornets put their first points on the board, a tribute to the Stags’ defence.
The final score was Nanango 34, Cherbourg 6.
Nanango’s try scorers were Jakeb Mead, Jake Keating, Blake Shirley, Matthew Mladenovic, Blake Calvert and Kaia Williams. Jakeb Mead (4) and Joe Smith (1) added the extra points.
Cherbourg’s try scorer was Frank Weazel; Selwyn Cobbo kicked one goal.
Player of the Final: Kaia Williams (Nanango).
Chinchilla Bulldogs proved just too strong for Murgon in a close game in the U14s Grand Final.
The half-time score had Chinchilla ahead 20-10.
The Mustangs kept on pressing but the final score was Chinchilla 32, Murgon 16.
Chinchilla’s tries were scored by Ky Taaffe (3), Joe Dwyer (2), Bryton Nimo and Patterson Bannister. Blake Moore kicked two goals.
Murgon’s tries were scored by Lennox Bligh (2) and Glen Fisher. Glen Fisher kicked two goals.
Player of the Final: Ky Taafe (Chinchilla).
Murgon Mustangs started off their Grand Final day campaign with a win in the U12s over Nanango.
The Mustangs were ahead 20-6 at half-time, but the young Stags made a strong comeback in the second half to threaten Murgon’s lead.
The final score was Murgon 30, Nanango 22.
Murgon try scorers were Kevin Langton (3), Dion Sandow-Walsh (2) and Joseph Meikle. Goals were kicked by Nathan Roderick, Dion Sandow-Walsh and Lachlan Brunjes.
Nanango try scorers were Matthew McAuliffe (3) and Ryan Keating. Goals were kicked by Ryan Keating, Jayden Tewes-Smallwood and Blake Manthey.
Player of the Final: Kevin Langton (Murgon).