Bombala break 27-year drought in first grade league premiership

A 45-metre penalty goal by Andrew Guthrie will go down as the deciding factor in Sunday’s Group 16 rugby league grand final. 

The kick, which sailed neatly through the posts, locked in a 14-12 lead for Bombala that saw the club go on to break a 27-year drought. 

Bega recovered a short kick from the restart with just two minutes on the clock, but a knock-on, then a penalty ensured the score would stand with an emphatic Bombala crowd swarming the field as the siren sounded. 

The team, led by captain-coach Paul Perkins, were worthy winners in a gritty and physical encounter with the Bega Roosters. 

Bega had held the lead 10-6 into the break on the back of an early try from James Duncan and a later four-pointer when half Callum Bower-Scott set his brother Declan loose left of the posts to score. 

The missed conversion attempt would prove pivotal when play returned in the second half. 

Exchanges were heated and tensions threatened to boil over a few times, but two of the most polished and regarded teams in the competition steeled their respective resolves and settled in for the middle arm wrestle that ensued. 

Play was a little stop-start as bone-crunching tackles forced some handling errors from both teams, but pace rarely dropped below frantic. 

As both teams pushed each other into their own defensive zones it was Bombala fullback Arborosio Navori who broke the Bega containment to dive over the line early in the half. 

Guthrie’s kick sailed true and the Blue Heelers took the lead 12-10 with 30 minutes to go. 

Bega were given a penalty about 20 metres out in front, but opted to pursue the four-pointer and were turned away by the Bombala defence. 

It was not a mistake the Roosters would make again as their next penalty saw James Bower-Scott kick the penalty goal from about 41 metres to level it up 12-12 with just 11 minutes remaining. 

Play became flustered and furious through the middle and the Blue Heelers found themselves on the receiving end of a penalty from a Bega shoulder charge. 

A thunderous roar erupted from the crowd as tension built, but Guthrie’s shot cleared the posts to rapturous applause from the vocal Bombala crowd. 

Field-side was deafening as the final three minutes counted down and Bega were left only able to rue some unfortunate slip-ups. 

It was a heart-breaking finish to Bega co-coach Mike Apps’ final game and his cousin Ryan Apps’ 100th. 

However, speaking at the presentation Ryan was gracious in defeat, while Perkins also heaped praise on the Bega centre, saying he was “a wonderful ambassador for the sport”. 

Bombala forward Luke Ingram was named man of the match.