An inspirational second-half performance from five-eighth Lillyann Mason led Cowra to a hard-fought, come-from-behind victory over Bathurst Bulldogs in Saturday’s Blowes Clothing Cup women’s major semi-final, booking the Eagles a spot in the decider in a fortnight.
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On the back of beautiful ball retention and several barnstorming carries through the middle from Marita Shoulders, Bulldogs led 5-0 at the half-time break.
The Bathurst side were the better of the two outfits in the opening stages of the second half too, before Mason came alive.
With her side needing a spark the classy pivot imposed herself on the contest, scoring a quick-fire double to turn the game on its head and ultimately seal a 10-5 win for the defending premiers.
Cowra will enjoy a week off thanks to the win and will face either Bulldogs or Mudgee in the decider, the latter side eliminating Orange City in Sunday’s minor semi-final.
In a low-scoring game where both sides’ defensive efforts were impressive, Bulldogs starved Cowra of the ball in the opening exhanges – in fact, the whole first half.
Shoulders was superb in the carry and the Bathurst side found space behind the Eagles constantly, but weren’t able to convert until late in the half.
Bulldogs finally crossed through Nicole Schneider, a member of Central West’s NSW Country Championship winning side.
Schneider broke through Cowra’s right-edge, brushing off two would-be defenders to dive over and give her side a 5-0 lead. It went unconverted, and Bathurst took the five-point advantage into the half-time break.
The blue and gold hoops came out firing again, but Cowra lifted.
The Eagles forwards finally started retaining some meaningful possession and the Eagles pinned Bulldogs in their own half as a result, before forcing a knock-on deep on Bathurst’s five-metre line.
It gifted the Eagles an attacking opportunity, which Mason took gleefully.
One-off the scrum, she stepped through Bulldogs line to score her first. It went unconverted as well, leaving the game on tenterhooks at 5-5 with about 10 minutes to go.
It didn’t stay deadlocked for long.
Cowra marched into Bulldogs’ half from the restart before Mason latched onto a long ball from halfback Betty Doolan, jinked, accelerated onto the outside shoulder and sold a beautiful dummy to go over untouched in the left corner.
Again, the kick was missed but it mattered little as Cowra held on to win.
Along with Mason, Doolan was superb at the base of the scrum for Cowra.
Bulldogs were best served by Shoulders, Schneider and Mel Waterford, while young five-eighth Teagan Miller produced a typically strong showing as well.
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