The Pambula-Merimbula Bulldogs will have to battle once more for a grand final shot after narrowly going down to Bega on Sunday.
The Bulldogs faced off with the Bega Roosters in Sunday’s qualifying grand final and were gutted when Bega captain Ryan Apps crossed in the final minute to steal victory 24-20.
However, the Dogs will get a second chance when they meet Cooma in Eden on Saturday for the minor semi-final.
After going down to the Roosters the week earlier, the team came off the blocks firing in Sunday’s contest, jumping to an early 10-point lead.
Play quickly settled into an arm-wrestle through the ruck with both teams boasting a fit and speedy pack.
The Roosters were cutting some hard lines through Apps with support from Grant Jessop and Scott Fuller, but the Bulldogs were working well defensively.
It wasn’t until nine minutes before half-time that the Roosters could respond on the scoreboard when Jessop did a short chip off the fifth tackle that bounded off the upright.
Fuller regathered the ball and put the Roosters on the board before Craig Dunham put the Roosters in front 12-10 when another chip bounced miraculously in favour of Bega.
Landing short of touch, the ball bounced back nearly 10 metres into the hands of a full-sprint Dunham, who dashed 30 metres to score.
The Roosters opened the scoring in the second half with Shawn Bell carrying a pair of defenders to crash over the line.
Again play settled through the middle with sets trading back and forth between the 20 metre marks.
However, the Bulldogs began to press the attack on the right flank and prop-come-sprinter Grant Moon hit the line with tremendous speed to break through and score right of the posts.
Trailing by just two points, the Bulldogs were building momentum with the clock whittling away.
Moon again made a trademark bolt into the line, but offloaded to the right edge where winger Callan Sinclair was waiting to make a 40-metre sprint and put the visitors back on top 20-18.
Seven minutes remained with play hitting a fever pitch as the Roosters belted into the line frantically.
The Bulldogs tried to push back against the Roosters, but were creeping slowly back into their own half.
Apps crashed over with two minutes to go, relegating the Bulldogs to a second chance in the minor semi-final.
The Bulldogs will face the Cooma Stallions in Group 16’s minor semi-final at Eden’s George Brown Memorial Oval on Saturday at 4pm.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.