Captain’s try in final minute seals Roosters’ win

The Cobar Roosters scored a thriller of a win in the final minute of the Christie & Hood Castlereagh Rugby League First Grade grand final on Saturday.
There was no stopping Roosters captain/coach Lomu Atuau as he sealed his side’s victory in the dying stages of the game played at McGrane Oval in Gilgandra.
The Panthers defence had no chance of stop-ping Atuau’s charging run from the back of the scrum packed deep in the home side’s territory.
The Roosters’ hero had his eye on the prize as he muscled his way through the Gilgandra defence to score right in front of Cobar’s army of ecstatic red, white and blue supporters.
The match had all of the hallmarks of a great grand final with both sides fully committed to winning, each had large, vocal crowds behind them, the lead changed several times through-out and the Roosters only snatched the win from the Panthers in the final minute.
The Panthers opened the scoring early in Saturday’s tough, physical grand final game.
It wasn’t until midway through the first half that Cobar responded with Atuau pushing over to score the Roosters first points next to the posts.
Cobar then took the lead soon after in sensa-tional fashion when a beautifully weighted kick from the far wing by Jimmy Neyland was plucked out of the air by high flying Rooster centre, Tim Hillam, who put the ball down to score.
Tom Plater’s kicking game was on song and his second conversion put the Roosters in front at 12-6.
However the lead was to only be short-lived as the Panthers hit back with a converted try to lock up the scores at 12-all just before half time.
Soon after the re-start, Plater put the Roost-ers in front with a converted try before the Panthers then grabbed the game by the throat.
Gilgandra ran in three consecutive tries and, by midway through the second half, they had pushed their lead out to 26-18.
The Roosters however kept on attacking.
Atuau constantly kicked in play with the plan that his pacey fullback, Ash Davies, would be first in the chase to the ball. Davies however was a marked man, as was
Cobar’s Hooker Tom Plater, and while both
managed numerous line breaks throughout
the match, they were heavily marked and had
no room to move.
Throughout the season Cobar has always
been able to rely on their big, mobile forwards
and, with nine minutes left on the
clock, Gerald Mackey forced his way over to
score for the Roosters which shifted the momentum
in Cobar’s favour.
The Panthers scrambled as the Roosters
took control and, with fatigue setting in, a
penalty in Cobar’s favour close to the try line
gave Atuau the opportunity he’d been looking
Atuau scored and time had run out for the
Panthers as the full time siren sounded as
Plater took his last kicking attempt at goal.
It was the only one he missed all game, but
the Roosters were still able to claim a 28-26
Cobar played what was probably their best
game of the season with all players contributing
something to the win.
Atuau and co-captain Plater lead their side
They directed the Roosters play and kept
their cool throughout, particularly in the final
tense and gripping minutes of the game.
Hillam was another standout for the Roosters
scoring the other “try of the match”.
Hillam was also one of the game’s top tacklers.
Davies created excitement each time he got
the ball and was, as always, outstanding in
cover defence.
Ben Simon, playing in the forwards, made
plenty of yards in attack and was another top
tackler in Saturday’s game.
Cobar’s defensive workhorses, David Watson,
Jed Noonan and Tristan Everett, played
their trademark big games for the Roosters.
Zane Taylor, Nathan McAndrew, Sione
Fakahua and Veni Taumololo all played solid
games with Neyland, Ben Griffiths and Jack
Brown also making their own contributions
to Cobar’s win.
Their bench, Marty Turton, Ted Smith,
George Manu and Reynold Mugugia, are also
to be commended for their contributions to
the side throughout the season.
The Gilgandra side were gracious in defeat
and acknowledged at the after match presentations
that Cobar had been “the best side in
the competition” for the past two seasons.
Cobar’s fans, who came from far and wide
to watch Saturday’s grand final, included
Cobar Old Boys, COHOE Roosters and some
who had played in the Roosters last grand
final win at Dubbo, 16 years ago in Group 11.
It was the First Grade Roosters first premiership
since they joined the Castlereagh
competition in 2018.
The team was given a rousing welcome
(which included a police escort) on their return
to the Golfie on Saturday night.
Celebrations are reported to be continuing.