The Margaret River Gropers remain undefeated this year with a thrilling 10 all draw against the Dunsborough Dungbeetles.
The Gropers knew that they were going to have to dig deep in this match, having gone from 23 players the week before to just 14 men on Saturday.
This was due to several injuries, and players being away with other commitments. Dunsborough on the other hand, had their strongest team in 5 years and had 9 players on the bench.
Dunsborough sensed this opportunity, and if ever they were to beat the Gropers, this was their best chance. They showed good sportsmanship and matched numbers, but the Gropers were going to be up against it with no substitutions during a tough 80 minutes.
The opening stanza was fiery and physical, with the ‘Dungas’ enjoying the majority of possession. The Gropers rose to the task, making tackle upon tackle to thwart the brutal onslaught.
They in turn had their own opportunities, probing out wide and being caught short with some equally desperate and impressive defence.
The arm wrestle continued between these evenly matched teams before the ‘Beetles magically plucked the ball from a secure ruck and raced down the field. Despite a try saving tackle from Roper, they eventually crossed the line. The vocal home crowd ensured the Margaret River lads knew of their elation. That would remain the only score of the first half.
Inspirational words from some of the senior players at half- time, ensured a titanic battle ahead, with the Gropers renowned for their never-say-die attitude that runs deep in the club.
In fact, it only fuelled a team that has been waiting for such a challenge for the last four years.
The inexperienced front row of Margaret River held their own for three quarters of the match, with rookie Lucas Rudd playing his first game at prop.
Ollie Chanin was a force all over the field, going on to earn best player. He was instrumental in setting up the reply, with Daryl Roper crossing over to equalise.
Dunsborough, began to capitalise on a tiring opposition.
Penalties began to dominate the game, and the Gropers were on the back foot.
The Gropers rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in to the dirty work.
Like a grommet at The Box, they rode wave after wave, getting barrelled, dumped and spat out, only to paddle out for more. They survived relentless attack within meters of their try line.
Whilst escaping this, the Gropers were seriously starting to fatigue. They were caught short out wide after a well placed chip, and a try followed.
The Dungbeetles and fans alike celebrated, declaring “there’s going to be a party tonight!”
Once again the Gropers composed themselves, and knew that they could reply with 10 minutes left.
The Dungbeetles brought on fresh legs, noticeably in the front row and the Gropers began to give away their own ball in the set piece.
They never rolled over though, and pounced on a single mistake from the ‘Beetles.
After a well placed kick, the Gropers chased hard and pinned the opposition deep into their own half. The Gropers smelt blood, applying more pressure than a paramedic on the tourniquet of a victim of blood loss.
It worked, and a young forward succumbed to the pressure and kicked the ball into the hands of a Groper, who managed to link up out wide and score through Roper.
Surprisingly the crowd was silent.
The Margaret River lads were forced to play the last six minutes without their biggest man on the field, Darragh Keady, who went down with a medial ligament injury.
The Gropers were running on the fumes of an oily rag, and had to hold out with one less player.
The last play of the game was confirmed with the Gropers awarded the scrum deep in enemy territory.
A controversial penalty was awarded to Dunsborough right in front of the uprights.
The Disco lights and mirror balls began to roll out on the sideline for the upcoming party.
Despite having many competent kickers, the Dunsborough Captain decided to take the glory.
He shanked it and the Gropers promptly kicked it out ending the game with a 10 all draw.
I have never been more proud of the heart shown by my fellow players, and count this as the greatest draw I’ve ever been involved in.
We remain undefeated and have 9 players returning for a rematch this weekend on our own turf.
With the addition of the Tongan contingent back, we would love to rub some salt into their wounds on Saturday at 2pm on the Main Oval.
- Ben Christie