Hale Gordon has been involved in almost every type of moment you can imagine in rugby league.
From Group 11 grand final wins and losses to joy and despair as a captain or coach with Macquarie, it takes something special for the Raiders veteran to be speechless.
But after Saturday’s qualifying semi-final when the Gordon-coached under 18s Raiders scored two tries in the final two minutes to clinch an incredible victory over CYMS, the mentor was left in shock.
Making the win even more stunning is the fact his side scored the match-winning try right on full-time when winning the ball against the feed at a scrum.
Fullback Dalton Medcalf was on hand to scoop up the loose ball, evade a couple of defenders and then dart over under the black dot to level it up at 24-all and halfback Randel Dowling had no trouble slotting the conversion to send his side through to the major semi-final.
“Relief is the only word,” Gordon said, describing his feelings after his side had given up a 14-10 half time lead.
“We were in a good position at half time but didn’t earn the right with the ball in the second half and it didn’t quite work but they pinched it, they somehow pinched it in the end.”
There was plenty of contentious calls late on in the game, drawing the ire of many CYMS fans but coach Bernard Wilson made no excuses.
He was blunt post-match after his side again finished on the wrong side of a close result.
“It’s disappointing. We had the game won and we blew it, we beat ourselves yet again,” he said.
Relief is the only word.Raiders coach Hale Gordon
“It was stupidity and I’m not happy with them. We keep making it hard on ourselves.”
In a derby match which swung back and forth, Macquarie started the better but each time they worked themselves in front, Blaine Fernando bagged an early double, CYMS hit back.
With four minutes until half time star back-rower Luke Gale barged over to give his side a four-point buffer, a lead which remained until the break.
CYMS were missing NSW Country gun Matt Burton through injury and illness, stifling them of much creativity, but Jack Quinn slotted in during a trip back from boarding school while Western Rams half Bayden Searle shone in a stellar second half showing.
Searle, who had earlier rattled Gale under the ribcage in a fine tackle, finished with a hat-trick.
He seemingly had the Fishies on their way to victory when scoring two slick tries of the back of scrums in the second half but then it was two of Macquarie’s most exciting talents who got the Raiders back in the game.
Instrumental half Jai Merritt darted over with two minutes to go, showing great strength, and then Gale went on a barnstorming run well over the halfway line from the kick-off to get his side in great field position.
His side would go on to lose the ball just metres from the tryline as the second ticked down but it wasn’t over as the youngsters in sky blue gave an almighty push at scrum time.
“They rallied hard and it was our more talented players who really stood up and charged us out,” Gordon said after the win.
“We went 100m to score and we won the ball back. It was outstanding.”
The Raiders play minor premiers Forbes for a grand final spot next weekend and Gordon added anything other than a title will be a disappointment for his side.
“That’s our goal this year, we set our goals high,” he said.
CYMS now faces a do-or-die game at Forbes next weekend against a Parkes Spacemen side which stormed back late to win Saturday’s minor semi-final against Nyngan.