REIGNING Country Rugby League Tier 2 champions South Coast Group 7 have had to hold off a determined second half effort to down Group 6 in their Greater Southern Region trial at Centenary Field on Saturday.
The Bulls scored twice in the final 10 minutes to secure the 24-22 win to take the O'Dwyer-Middleton Trophy and players will now wait to see who will win spots in the Greater Southern team for the opening round of the Country titles next month.
Group 7 couldn't have got a better start when hooker Hans Schuster scored possibly his easiest try ever after centre Tyson Brown batted back a Jono Dallas kick in the third minute and Bronx Goodwin's conversion saw them ahead 6-0.
That lead was extended nine minutes later when winger Nathan Deaves finished off a sweeping backline movement for 10-0.
Group 6 had taken a long time to really get their attack going, but they finally struck in the 32nd minute when winger Blake Ritchie found himself unmarked on the right flank to close the gap to six, before Group 7 bounced back with their right winger Taylor Hudson scoring a superb individual try to send the home side to the break with a 14-6 lead.
The visitors seemed to come out in the second half with renewed belief and it was skipper Michael Lett who stepped up and in the 50th minute got them back to within striking distance with a try under the posts and just two minutes later was denied when he lost the ball in a tackle right under the posts.
However that let-off for Group 7 was short-lived and a great break up the middle by impressive Group 6s lock Warwick Carter and a great offload to Lett saw him race over under the posts. Matthew Brasington's conversion gave his side the lead for the first time in the game 16-14 with just 13 minutes remaining.
It took a piece of quick thinking by Bronx Goodwin, when he found the defence napping a metre from the line after a penalty to put the home side back in front and just three minutes later great work by Schuster from dummy-half sent prop Damien Paulissen over under the posts and Goodwin's conversion gave Group 7 what appeared to be an unassailable 24-16 lead.
Group 6 were able to get the final points when replacement Yileen Gordon powered over in the 79th minute and Brasington converted, but it wasn't enough as Group 7 held on for a tight win.
Gary Warburton, Joel Roberts, Taylor Hudson, Harold Snell and Damien Paulissen were among Group 7's best, with Lett, Carter and Matthew Brasington in Group 6.