With a minute left on the clock yesterday, the Goulburn City Bulldogs Under 19s were down by two points against Harden/Boorowa.
On a wet pitch, the Bulldogs struggled to find the same dominant form which has come naturally for most of the 2021 season.
The visitors at Boorowa Showground were also weakened by a number of absences, which left them with no reserves.
But, as the seconds ticked down before the final horn, Goulburn coach Shane McCallum's gamble paid off.
"It would've been [one of the biggest upsets of the season], for sure," McCallum said of Harden/Boorowa's impending victory.
"I put Aidyn Williams [who started the match on the wing] at fullback, and with ten seconds to go he made a break and scored from about 60 metres out."
Williams' try put the Bulldogs in front, 12-8, right on the buzzer. McCallum was pleased that his side got over the line, and the determination with which they played was icing on the cake.
"They actually played to win, they didn't give up," he said.
"That's a pleasing result, and without the superstar players there, the kids that are stepping up are still doing the job."
Goulburn's narrow victory in difficult conditions also marked a resounding turnaround from its first defeat of the season, three weeks ago against the Gungahlin Bulls.
After stringing together eight straight wins to start the year, the Bulldogs had grown somewhat complacent, and McCallum said the loss to Gungahlin snapped the players out of their torpor.
"It was a big wake-up call for the team," he said.
"If you keep winning, you can get complacent. But they responded really well last week with that win against the Blues, and blew them off the park."
With three weeks left in the regular season, Goulburn is all but certain to make the finals, and are strong favourites for the minor premiership.
From this point forward, McCallum will look to bring together the best available team, and begin preparations for finals.
Due to some absences throughout the season, both the Bulldogs' Reserve Grade and First Grade sides have called up some Under 19s players to make up the numbers.
While this has provided valuable experience for the young men, it has also caused some inconsistency in the Under 19s' lineup which McCallum hopes to address in the three remaining rounds.
"We're looking to get our team for semi-finals on deck," he said.
"So depending on how First Grade and Reserve Grade are faring, I'm going to get all my players on deck and go from there."
This Sunday, August 15, the Bulldogs will play the Yass Magpies at the Goulburn Workers Arena from 11.50am.
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