Mullumbimby snatch thrilling 34-30 win over Ballina Seagulls
By Steve Spinks
AS MULLUMBIMBY captain Murray Brown flopped on the loose ball to score the match-winning try in the thrilling Retravision Northern League grand final yesterday, he was sure the movement had been called back.
All motion around him slowed to a standstill. There was no reaction.
And then suddenly his Giants' team-mates were swamping him as the Mullumbimby players realised they had stolen a miraculous 34-30 victory over Ballina at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.
Brown's try in the 78th minute ensured a second premiership for Mullumbimby in four seasons while ending Ballina's crusade for their first title since 1993.
The fullback was johnny-on-the-spot after a great movement involving centre Joel Christie and winger Jy Hitchcock.
Hitchcock eventually found himself in space and chipped ahead to find Brown in support.
"I can't take too much credit for that,"chuckled Brown. "All I had to do was fall over. "I thought the whistle had gone because there was no-one around me ... almost felt like I was dreaming." Masterful comeback
Brown's try was Mullumbimby's second in two minutes as the Giants reeled in a 30-22 deficit in the final four minutes of play.
Replacement halfback Scott Hogan masterminded the comeback with a stunning chip and chase that ended with the former Cronulla lower-grader streeting away for a 55-metre try in the 76th minute.
It was his second try of the afternoon. Five-eighth Travis Drought converted to move the score to 30-28 before Brown secured the premiership.
"I never thought we had that game," Mullum coach Damon Scott said.
"It just goes to show what heart this group of players have.
"They just never gave up and to put 12 points on in four minutes is a credit to them."
For Scott it has been a long journey since he took the reins of the Mullumbimby first-grade team after the first round of the competition.
He has since guided the team to a minor and major premiership and been named the league's coach of the year. "It has been a long trip," Scott said.
"But the senior players have been great, as have the younger fellas."
The last four-minute fireworks was an amazing finish to an enthralling match.
To put it bluntly, Ballina should have won. They had most of the quality possession, most of the standout players and the home-ground advantage.
However, the sporting gods and the supreme will of the Mullumbimby team foiled what would have been the sweetest victory for the Seagulls.
Trading tries The two sides traded tries in the first 40 minutes. Ballina led 6-0 through a converted try to halfback Willie Hammond, but Mullum prop Ricky Oxley barged over from short range soon after to level the scores after 12 minutes.
Centre Brenton Cochrane scored his first try in the 17th minute but the Giants replied through Jamie Coote and the scores remained 12-all until the 38th minute when Hogan scored the first of his two tries.
From a penalty, Hogan drifted across the field, found a tired forward and simply stepped around him to score.
Right on the 40th minute Ballina received a penalty and hooker Andrew Battese kicked a goal to cut the visitors' lead to 18-14 at the break.
Nine minutes into the second half Cochrane scored his second to give the Seagulls a short-lived lead because Oxley again bullocked his way over from short range to give the Giants a 22-20 advantage.
Oxley's two-try effort in the grand final was more than he had scored in the whole season.
In the 62nd minute, substitute Dan O'Connor put Ballina back in front after he was on the end of a slick backline movement and then came one of the tries of the match.
Seagulls second-rower Eddie Killingbeck barged, stepped, parried and bullocked his way more than 40 metres to score a brilliant try which after Battese converted gave the home side a 30-22 lead and seemingly the match.
Four minutes later O'Connor looked like he had scored his second try and the match-sealer for the Seagulls but referee Peter O'Connor correctly ruled the last pass to the substitute was forward.
Six minutes later, Mullumbimby had scored two amazing tries and stolen the premiership from under the noses of the bewildered Ballina team.