They say you don’t win a premiership, you earn it, and while the Reds have a very tough road ahead of them, they did a bunch of earning on Saturday with a grafting 13-7 win against the Young Yabbies.
Both sides didn’t just have to contend with playing each other. Throw in gusty winds, pelting rain that came in sideways and a water-sogged paddock and the match became a cross between a tough-mudder course and a game of rugby.
The winner would be the side that could hold their will for the full match. And to their credit, Young brought bucket loads of will.
Despite coming into the match seventh on the ladder, Young has had a resurgence in the second half of the competition and hadn’t lost any of their last four games. They were also aware that their slim mathematical chance of making the semis would go out the window with a loss to Goulburn, and so they brought the kitchen sink to the game.
Goulburn held the better of possession and position for the bulk of the first half and camped on the Yabbies’ line for much of that period, but the Yabbies defence proved almost impenetrable.
In their resolve, the Yabbies surrendered a bunch of penalties defending their try-line and were lucky not to be shown a yellow card which allowed the Reds to mount further sorties, however the Yabbies held firm.
After more infringements, the referee eventually produced his yellow card and that, added to Goulburn’s weight of possession, proved too much though for Young. After 25 scoreless minutes, injured hooker Chris Boardman barged across out-wide for a try.
That stung the Yabbies who responded by moving play out of their own half and keeping it there. Just short of half time, Young produced their own try and took a 7-5 lead into the break.
Goulburn had played directly into the wind in the first half and coach Ben Pearson urged the Reds to make use of it in the second half. Just one minute after the break they did just that with a Mik Webber penalty goal kicked from about 40 metres out that gave Goulburn a one point lead.
But any hopes by Goulburn supporters that the Reds had seized the momentum and would roll over the Yabbies were short-lived.
It was straight back to the hard slog in a game in which ball-handling was difficult and in which both sides produced top shelf defence.
Both sides had their chances in the second half, both sides were cut down by determined defence. But as the sun started to poke through the grey in the final ten minutes of the match, Goulburn had again locked into good field position and a series of scrums followed from which Goulburn launched attacking raids.
Seven minutes before full time the Yabbies defence finally provided a small chink which scrum half Jackson Reardon exploited to cross for Goulburn’s second try, extending the lead to 13-7.
There was no thought of breathing easy though as the Yabbies lifted again. The outcome remained in the balance for the remainder of the match but Goulburn defended their lead resolutely and held on for a hard-fought and crucial win.
Best and fairest points were awarded to Henry Cooper (3), Abram Kara (2) and Hamish McCormack (1) with Kara also voted players player.
Goulburn 13 (Chris Boardman, Jackson Reardon tries, Mik Webber conversion) bt Young 7.
Competition for first grade semi-final spots is still wide open with six teams jockeying for position.
In the middle of last week, Goulburn temporarily held the top spot in the competition but due to the peculiarities of ACT first division, ADFA are allowed to play less games than the other teams in the competition and double points are up for grabs for many of the games they do play.
Those bonus game points were allocated this week and ADFA shot ahead from sixth on the ladder to outright first. Since Goulburn won’t be playing next weekend (their second scheduled game against ADFA for which double points were awarded to ADFA), they won’t be picking up any points while the other teams around them will, so the look of the top four could change dramatically.
Goulburn’s last two rounds of the season proper will be played on July 21 and 28 at Poidevin Oval against Hall and Queanbeyan respectively … both sides still in the running for the premiership as well, leaving Goulburn’s premiership future very much in their own hands.