Skipper's heroic play in St Brendan's epic semi-final
RUGBY LEAGUE: Co-captain Bill Gunning scored with just two minutes on the clock to seal St Brendan's gutsy come-from-behind win in today's Aaron Payne Cup semi-final.
Brendan's ran out 16-14 winners over Ignatius Park to advance to the grand final, to be played as a curtain raiser to the Cowboys versus Brisbane game at 1300SMILES Stadium on Thursday, August 8.
The victory also earns them a ticket to this year's NRL Schoolboy Cup finals in Brisbane.
The Cathedral College were beaten 30-4 by Kirwan in the earlier semi-final.
St Brendan's coach Terry Hansen said it was a fantastic win.
"It was a really tough game and there was nothing in it,” he said from Townsville.
"It was one end to the other and we just defended really well. We hung in there and our chances came and we scored the tries when we needed to.”
Ignatius Park scored first and led 10-nil at the break.
St Brendan's scored first in the second half, with wing Jake Keating showing his blistering speed to beat the Ignatius Park defence on the outside and run 80m to the tryline.
Ignatius Park hit back to make it 14-6 before wing Mauga Nona crossed for St Brendan's second try.
The stage was set for a thrilling finish and second rower Gunning delivered, running in the match-winner in the dying minutes.
Hansen said it was his players' tenacity and attitude that got them the win.
"We defended our try line for ages and they're a really big team. Just to keep knocking them over and getting there for each other was what got us over the line,” he said.
"Ignatius Park are used to steam-rolling teams and we weren't going to let that happen.
"We hung in there, defending grimly, and we ended up wearing them down in the end.”
Hansen praised co-captain Sam Strohfeldt, saying his defensive effort was outstanding.
"To be honest, there wasn't a bad player out there. They all dug really deep, they dug in hard for each other and got the job done,” Hansen said.