Gerringong fullback Joel Roberts splits the Albion Park-Oak Flats defence during his strong display during Sunday?s 16-14 grand final loss at Centenary Field. Picture: KIAMA PICTURE CO Gerringong fullback Joel Roberts splits the Albion Park-Oak Flats defence during his strong display during Sunday?s 16-14 grand final loss at Centenary Field. Picture: KIAMA PICTURE COKPC48166.JPG
IT doesn’t get any better.
That’s the view of Albion Park-Oak Flats coach Jason Hooper after his side took out the Group 7 Rugby League first grade premiership in a 16-14 thriller against Gerringong.
“We just defended and defended against the best attacking team in the comp,” he said.
The Park survived a last-second scare and a player sent off to win a brutal contest at Centenary Field on Sunday.
The Eagles led by two points when Lions fullback Joel Roberts had the chance to send the game into golden point with a conversion from out wide after the final siren.
The kick hit the post, the Park claiming their first premiership since 2009.
The win was characterised by a gruelling first half during which the Lions threw everything at the Eagles defence, only to trail 6-0 at the break.
Eagles forward Matt Jarrett was given an early shower in the 53rd minute for a high shot on prop Justin O’Hare, who took no further part in the contest.
The Lions dominated field position but the Park’s defence was harder to crack than a top-secret government code.
The Eagles opened the scoring in the 28th minute through man of the match Dean Gray.
Evasive fullback Danny Sartori made it 10-0. Tries to Kal Collins and David Catterall locked up the scores, but Gerringong hooker Nathan Ford and skipper Ryan Staples both left the field injured.
The Park led 12-10 via a penalty goal before Chris Daniels extended it to 16-0.
Lions halfback Rixon Russell put up a towering hail Mary bomb as the last play of the day and Roberts scored the try.
Minor premiers, the Lions only lost two matches in 2012, both against the Park during the playoffs. Hooper felt his side was capable of victory, even following Jarrett’s dismissal.
“We completed our sets and just toughed it out; it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.
Lions coach Mick Cronin believed Roberts struck the final conversion well enough. “I thought, ‘he’s hit this pretty well’ and the way everyone was looking, but it hit the upright,” he lamented.
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