A Coopa Martin hat-trick has helped Red Bend to a 28-20 win over St John’s in the Dubbo and District Junior Rugby League decider at Caltex Park on Saturday.
Even being reduced to 12 men did not hurt the visitors, who held St John’s out for the 10 minutes captain Thomas Toohey was off the field and even extended their lead.
Coach Mark Hartwig said it was the perfect end to Red Bend’s first season in the Dubbo competition.
”We were undefeated minor premiers and now come away with the grand final win so it was a great effort from the boys,” he said.
“They worked hard for it and deserved it.”
It was a game of two halves, with St John’s leading for the majority of the first half and heading to the sheds with a six-point margin.
A fleet-footed Sullivan Haycock opened the scoring for the hosts, scooping up the ball from dummy half and dummying the ball before dodging four defenders and reaching out to plant the ball next to the uprights.
The light blues levelled through Coopa Martin almost 10 minutes later after forcing a number of repeat sets, but St John’s struck back quickly through Aiden Lake.
Martin found another gap through the middle to keep Red Bend in the game, but with just minutes remaining in the first half Tobias Dries rampaged down the eastern sideline to give St John’s a 16-10 lead at the break.
The lead didn’t last long, though, and by the 40th minute Red Bend had put themselves in front for the first time through Martin and Zeke Hartwig.
The tide looked set to turn in St John’s favour in the 50th minute when Toohey was sent off for a high shot. But St John’s failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage.
Instead it was Red Bend who found an overlap and Jack Hartwig crashed over to extend their lead with Toohey still off the field.
With four minutes remaining Jack Bayliss crashed over for St John’s to narrow the gap to eight points, but the damage was done and Red Bend claimed victory.
“They played good football in the first 15, 20 minutes, St John’s,” Hartwig said.
“We kept on turning it over, they had a fair bit of ball and lucky we just hung in there.
“We were down 16-10 at half time but I thought the wind was probably worth 10 or 15 points … it showed in the second half, we completed our sets … got repeat sets and came away with it.”
St John’s coach John Grey said his side had given their all against a “really clinical” Red Bend.
“They were always going to be a difficult side to beat,” he said.
“I think in patches, when we really put our hand up to go forward, our forwards [and our outside backs] … when we needed them to make good metres and get in there to do some hard work they were willing to put their hands up.
“We sort of lost our way through the middle towards the back end, that just comes with a side as clinical and as sharp as Red Bend that they were really able to work over the middle third … that momentum that they were to build, we just weren't able to regain any structure at all but all credit to them.”
RED BEND 28 (Coopa Martin 3, Zeke Hartwig, Jack Hartwig tries; Raymond Towney 4 conversions) def ST JOHN’S 20 (Sullivan Haycock, Aiden Lake, Tobias Dries, Jackson Bayliss tries; James Nelson 2 conversions)