Port City wins marathon minor semi-final but result remains in abeyance

THE result of the Group Three Rugby League minor semi-final remains in abeyance after Wingham fired in a protest after the extra time 30-24 loss to Port City in the match at Wingham.

The game was forced into overtime when Port City halfback Anthony Cowan kicked a penalty goal after the fulltime siren to lock up the scores at 24-24. A try to Port winger Jarrod Robbins and a sideline conversion by Cowan two minutes from the end of the second half of extra time looked set to propel the Breakers into next Sunday's final.

However, as soon as the match concluded Wingham lodged the protest, claiming Port had 13 players on the field for the first half of extra time. Just before fulltime referee Jason Higgins set Port City captain Adrian Daley to the sin bin for 10 minutes. The Breakers should have started extra time with only 12 players.

Group Three chairman Wayne Bridge said it is unlikely a ruling will be made on the judgement overnight. Mr Bridge said the group management will first have to review a video before a decision is made.

He attempted to contact East Coast Region manager Kevin Hill and Country Rugby League operations manager Bert Lowry for clarification should Wingham's protest be upheld. Mr Hill had been at the ground earlier, but was en-route home to Banora Point.

Mr Bridge then rang Mr Lowry, who is overseas.

"I'm still waiting to her back from Bert,'' Mr Bridge said when contacted at 6pm.

He said he hadn't spoken to Port City about the matter at that stage. Neither coach knew of the protest when they spoke to the media at fulltime.

This drama followed what had been an absorbing contest between the Tigers and the Breakers.

As expected, Wingham went into the game without injured captain-coach Mick Sullivan, however, centre Tim Bridge had recovered sufficiently from a knee problem to take his place. The game was played in deteriorating weather conditions, with the ground blasted by a strong sou-west wind.

Wingham players congratulate second rower Tim Watson after he scored their first try in the minor semi-final against Port City.

Wingham players congratulate second rower Tim Watson after he scored their first try in the minor semi-final against Port City.

Wingham ran into the wind in the first half, but trooped off leading 12-10. However, the Breakers had the better of the opening exchanges in the second half and after 15 minutes led 22-12. Aided by some sloppy handling by the Tigers, Port City held a territorial advantage for much of the second half, even though Wingham had the wind at their backs. Then a smart individual try by Wingham five-eighth and captain Danny Russell, who then added the conversion, saw the Tigers back in the hunt at 22-18.

With less than five minutes left Wingham worked a set move and makeshift centre Michael Rees perfectly positioned winger Harry Lewis, who scurried over the tryline and improved his position to lock it up at 22-22. Lewis is usually the club's under 18 halfback. Russell piloted the conversion to give Wingham a 24-22 lead.

The Tigers looked final-bound when Cowan put the kick off over the sideline on the full. Wingham received a penalty on halfway, however, Russell failed to find touch.

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Port worked play deep into Wingham territory and had the feed for a scrum after a Wingham handling error when there was a flareup. Referee Higgins sin binned Daley, but awarded the Breakers the penalty and Cowan calmly added the two points to make it 24-24.

So extra time it was. The result of that has still to be determined.

Minor grades

Wauchope ended Taree City's women's league tag season with a 32-14 win while Port Macquarie upset Port City 24-12 in the under 18.5 match. Port City reversed the result in reserve grade with a strong 28-8 result.

The game was $3700.