Cougars leap over Eagles to create historic Grand Final showdown
Cougars 2 0 12 6 2 38 9 3 57 12 9 81
Eagles 5 3 33 5 3 33 7 8 50 8 8 56
For the first time in CAFL history, the University Cougars will be playing their "love child", the Christchurch Bulldogs, in a Grand final. It is the first "Granny" for the Cougars in 8-years.
The game boiled down to which team made the best use of the southerly breeze and who worked hardest into it. As the scoreline reflects, the Cougar's winning margin was the differential in scores kicked into the wind. The Eagles were a little undermanned with no bench, so fatigue was always going to be a factor. The Cougars were bolstered by their 5-Otago based journeymen, who performed admirably considering the long drive up to the "big" city.
The game looked to be slipping away from the Cougars in the first quarter when the Eagles came out strongly, kicking 5 goals, including a long bomb that rolled through from the centre square and an another threaded from a tight angle by sharp shooter Rick Van Olphen. To their credit, the Cougars steadied and managed to fight back with two late goals into the stiff breeze, working the ball methodically to the scoring side of the park. The Eagles were winning centre clearances, but the Cougar back-line showed resilience against the odds.
The Cougars carried their momentum into the second quarter and soon wrested the lead from the Eagles, with a combination of strong marking inside-50 and clever link-up handball. The Eagles failed to score in the second quarter, with the Cougars dominating possession. The Cougar lead could have been more had they not wasted some golden opportunities in front of goals.
The "championship" quarter, the third, was going to be a key indicator to the outcome. The breeze had shifted a little and was blowing straight up the ground to the end to which the Eagles were kicking, but amazingly, the first goals for the quarter came from the Cougars. Things started to look pear shaped for the Eagles, but where would their relief come from without a bench to work? They were being seriously outpaced by a nippier Cougar outfit that was growing in confidence. The Cougars were playing with a 7-man defense and yet still outscoring the Eagles into the wind. By the last change, the Cougars had increased their half time lead from 5 to 7-points.
The flood gates opened up in the last and the Cougars dominated inside-50's. Legs were getting tired and some easy shots on goal went astray, but the game was firmly in their grasp. The Eagles battled manfully and made the Cougars earn every score. Tempers started to fray in the end and several skirmishes broke out in the minutes leading up to the siren. In the end, it was the Cougars singing their song.
Cougars: Travis Egerton, Reyne Westbury, Josh Mackie, Brad Cargill, George Reed, Rubin Edy. Richie Williams
Eagles: Ryan O'Sullivan, Charles Barnes, Rob Smith, Logan Riley, Bullfrog Nikkel, Henry Boon