Finals hopes fade in last seconds
THE Bluff Rabbitohs took out a thrilling 38-30 win over the Emerald Cowboys on Wednesday night, leaving Cowboys club president Damon Walsh lost as to how their season ended so poorly.
After taking a comfortable, but by no means certain second-half lead, the Cowboys' defence slipped, allowing Bluff's Ethan McLaughlin to score the match-winning try with just seconds remaining.
"We had the side to win it and you think you have it but then you don't," Walsh said.
"We just sort of relaxed and Bluff came home strong. They wanted it more, I guess.
"Bluff is a heavy side and they've got some big boys, but you can't fault the players we took over there."
The short notice semi-final play-off, which was scheduled with the two clubs deadlocked on 14 points a-piece, was marred by an early injury to Cowboys' five-eighth Andrew Davey.
Fortunately the injury does not appear to be as bad as first thought, with a later examination confirming no broken bones.
"He (Andrew) was one of our best," Walsh said.
But as heartbreaking as Wednesday night's loss was, Walsh felt it should never have come down to just one game, with the club offered ample opportunity throughout the season to secure a finals position.
"It (our form) has been up and down," Walsh said.
"We've beaten three of the top sides in the competition but we've also played some pretty poor games.
"You need a different mindset for finals, and it just shows that these games don't come easy."
Looking ahead he said there were positive signs for the Cowboys, with at least six under-18 players blooded with first-grade experience this season.
Among them are Kieren Pratt and Jordan Milburn, who should prove worthy additions to the Emerald line-up next year.
"There's good signs there, so hopefully they stick around," Walsh said.
The Rabbitohs could not be contacted at the time of print but it's expected they will be nursing their fair share of injuries when they take on the Middlemount Panthers in tomorrow's minor elimination final in Emerald. As Walsh highlighted earlier, three games in one week will be a tough ask.
It's all or nothing for both sides, with nothing less than a win required to keep their season hopes intact.