A GRAND FINAL FOR THE TRUE BELIEVERS!
This game had everything. Great play, great drama, energy and excitement to burn and above all else great sportsmanship and skill.
My friend and business partner from Tahiti, Chris O'Callaghan came over to watch the game. Chris is the contest director for the Billabong Pro in Tahiti, friend to most of the worlds top 44 surfers and a rugby league tragic.
He's the only person I know who surfs Teahupoo almost every day and is able to watch live NRL games as well. Now that is living in paradise!
ANyway, Chris said to me after the game it looked to him like De La Salle played with nothing to lose and everything to win.... and win they did!
Cronulla Caringbah came out of the blocks strongly got some good field position.
They got the ball going wide through the hands with a quick offload to Stacey put him into the gap and he used his pace to score about 10 m wide of the posts.
Cameron Paddy used his golden touch with the boot to put it over the black dot again. Sharks 6-0.
De La Salle kicked off but through a some good defence managed to get the ball back in good field position as well.
With their backs sitting very deep they were able to get a good roll on with their backline movements.
They too spread the ball wide down their right flank to a speeding Andrew Montgomery.
He had a good 20 yards to go,with a very small amount of room but just managed to beat the defence coming across and the corner post to get the ball down for a try. Sharks 6-4.
The Cronulla kick off was a good one with ball being spilt by De La and Cronulla came up with it. Cronulla had the ball in good field position and threw everything they had at the De La defence but they held tight.
De La fought back got the ball and made plenty of ground through some great forward runs and smart backline plays.
THey ended up about 25 yards out right near the posts with one of their smaller players little Jesse Faye grabbed the ball from dummy half bounced off one tackle, spun out of another.
The sharks guys seemed to expect him to stop but he just kept pushing and finally ended up putting the ball down right next to the upright.
Tommy MacLennan put it over 10-6 to De La Salle, back in front for the 2nd time this year.
The game went from end to end. Sharks put a kick up on the 6th, Joseph Drinkwater took a nice bounce was covered in the tackle but got the ball away to little Blake Walker.
He kept it alive it went all the way to the other wing a line drop out to De La.
Again the Sharks had field position. They put on a move that went wrong Drinkwater got a badly bruised knee and was out for the game.
The chance were gone and now De La used their deep backs to great effect and pushed the ball up the centre. Gilesy spun inside stepped around 3 players and was almost through except for a slip.
De La maintained their defensive line despite some desperately hard runs from Rea Pittman and Jeremy Saville.
De La put in a huge bomb which shaved the posts came down right under the upright and was put down by Gilesy but the ref called "offside". The Sharks breathed a collective sigh, but it was looking ominous.
Next thing Michael Lichaa the key five-eight organiser was out on the ground holding his leg.
His dad - big Joe Lichaa - carried him off and pondered what could have been with the Sharks down to 14 men.
Half time came quickly and the score remained 10-6.
Back on the field and the action came fast and hard. De La's forwards worked hard with big Zac Wedderswieller and Reece Davidson tireless up the middle with strong barging runs.
But in this game it was Dion Beattie and Daniel Small that seemed to really make the difference for De La along with their half back (Tommy McLennan) and Five Eight (Jackson Clark).
They played off the big forwards to make another line of attack then with the outside backs running from a very deep angle De La seemed to gain a lot of momentum.
Monty scored another great try shortly after a nice pass that went from Gliesy to Aaron Faulkner to Monty who ran 30 meters then had to smash into Stacey and then he jumped over Stacey and in for the try.
All of a sudden it was 14- 6 to De La.
Sharks were starting to feel the pressure and tried everything possible to get back into the game.
They ended up back on the De La line put a high up and under which landed over near the touchline to be pounced on by a very seedy (stomach bug) Fabian Hurst who almost seemed to fall onto the ground with a "just let me put it down".
Cameron Paddy showed extreme skill again to kick his 5th kick in row in the finals and another from way out wide. 14-12 to De La.
IT was game on but Cronulla continued with a very flat backline.
This put pressure on the passes and didn't leave enough room for their speedsters to get a roll on.
De La used this to their advantage and time and again the flat passes just went astray.
De La taking full advantage getting the ball back and running it wide.
The crowd strained forward in their seats, the tension mounted as Cronulla pressed on despite injuries.
Sharkies got the ball wide pushing at the De La line a great cut out pass from Blake Drysdale, who seemed to rise to the occassion put Fabian Hurst in for what looked like his second try.
But the touchy put his flag up - no try.
De La continued to defend well and their whole team knew they had the advantage as the clock ticked down.
They also did some great attacking movements getting to within inches of the Cronulla line who somehow held them out.
Cronulla got back towards the De La line and this time put it through their hands towards Guy's wing who put it down over the line but the ref said that one of the desperate De La ( Zac Wedderswieller) defenders had managed to knock the ball out. No Try again. Still 14-12.
With only minutes to go the next to score wins for sure.
The Sharks started to move away from their own line.
They put it through the hands to Stacey out wide.
He seemed to have a chance with the De La's full back speeding across, but tired legs and great defence saw that movement snuffed out and with it went the Sharks chances for 2007.
It was a game played with great sportsmanship and both the fans and the players showed maturity and community spirit. Each cheering the other and of course cheering their own a little bit more.
Michael Lichaa was rushed to hospital the following morning with concussion.
He had already seen the doc on Saturday afternoon and had suffered a broken kneecap and ligament damage.
We wish him a speedy recovery.
De La victorious at 14-12.
IT was a great result for the De La team. They put on an absolutely first class performance. IT was a real team effort with every player putting in their 110%. I'm sorry I can't name all the guys from De La, but we all enjoyed watching the game.