October 28 2017 was a big day for the Hills Hornets Touch Football club after both the Hills Hornets 1st division teams won their Vawdon Cup Grand Finals. This achievement was topped off with the Men’s Division 3 team also bagging a Grand Final win. An extraordinary day for the club after 5 teams made Vawdon Cup Grand Finals.
Inclusion Premier League unlucky in an epic
The day started out with the Hills Hornets Inclusion Premier league team taking on the Manly Sea Eagles. After being down 3-1 at half time the undefeated Hornets fought back to lead the game 6-5 with a minute to go. They were unable to hold on and the Sea Eagles leveled the scores to send the game into sudden death drop off.
It looked like the Hornets had scored the golden try after Chris O’Dowd streaked away untouched. But the referee called it back for a forward pass.
Extra time continued with Manly applying a lot of pressure. The game got down to 3 on 3 drop off, before the Sea Eagles grabbed the match winner.
The Hornets boys were disappointed but philosophical “you can’t win it every year” said O’Dowd after the game. “And it’s good to share it around”.
Once again the Hornets IPL men demonstrated the spirit that has made the Inclusion Premier League an outstanding success, and something NSW Touch deserves a lot of congratulations for.
Women’s Division 1 the Comeback Queens
Following the Hornets IPL men we had the Hornets Division 1 Women’s team who also faced the Manly Sea Eagles. The Hornets Women had only lost one game all year – and that was to Manly.
In the first half it was all Manly; completely outrunning the Hornets, and their dominance reflected on the scoreboard with a 5-2 score line at halftime. Were the Hornets about to lose their 2nd grand final of the day? No way!
Whatever Coach Craig Beacroft said at half time transformed the girls. They came out in the second half full of running and it was now Manly struggling for momentum. Co-Captain Larrisa Canning was directing the team around park beautifully, and when Paris Mooney showed composure beyond her 16 years of age to control a set of 6 and eventually score herself off a quickie, the Hornets had drawn level at 6 touchdowns a piece with 8 minutes left on the clock.
The Hornets had their tails up, Manly heads were down, and Hornets supporters in the grandstand were going ballistic.
Hornets had to withstand multiple repeat sets on their line. With not much left in the tank, they marched down field before “Player of the Final”, Simone Rogers, split the defence from dummy half and linked with Co-Captain Mel Mitchell to put the Hornets in front 7-6 with 5 minutes left on the clock.
The Hornets girls were now in front for the first time, but were exhausted and had to survive a surging Manly who were desperate to find the leveller. The Hornets managed to hold on, and as the final siren sounded they found just enough energy to celebrate the victory. Super Coach Beacroft sat back in the sub box with a wry smile – almost like the epic drama that unfolded was all part of his master plan.
Men’s Division 1 in Extra Time Heart Stopper
It was then time for the Hornets Division 1 Men’s team to try and get the Division 1 double.
The Division 1 men had started the season on fire winning the first 6 games of the 12 game season. But the final 6 games saw them limp into the finals with 5 losses and a draw. Their loss in round 12 was to the University of NSW Bullets who were also their opponents for the Grand Final, and a team who had only lost 2 games all season.
The Hornets started well, leading 1-0 and then 2-1. But by half time, the boys were down 4-3 and momentum was with a Bullets team being lead by playmaker Daniel Rushworth.
The start of the 2nd half can best be described as an end to end arm wrestle, with no touch downs scored for the first 7 minutes. As the Hornets were trying to work their way off their line, Player of the final Regan “Reggie” Walsh drifted across field 15 metres out from his own line before spotting a hole in the defence. With a scintillating run, that left diving defenders in his wake he had single handedly drawn the Hornets level.
Four minutes later, the oldest player in the team, Brad Mitchell, dished to the youngest, Flynn Angles-Corke, with a perfect execution of a fly play. The Hornets had grabbed the lead 5-4.
The teams swapped touchdowns for the last 7 minutes. When the final siren sounded they were locked at 6-6. Hornets supporters who had already endured two nail biting finishes had to try and get their team though another nerve racking extra time drop off. The Bullets had first use of the ball and the Hornets defended stoutly before Cameron Dow took an intercept off the Hornets line. Although the Bullets quickly rounded him up, the Hornets had good momentum at the start of the set that saw them work it to the Bullets line with touches in hand. Like a conductor in an orchestra, Regan Walsh directed the team to a position where he could take off from dummy half. After scooping, he found Dow on the wing with a long ball, who stepped inside his winger and crashed over the line. The same 2 players who combined to score the winning extra time drop off try against Wests 2 weeks earlier had done it again. The Division 1 double was sealed.
The ensuing pile on was as epic as the win. NSW touch almost had to call in the excavators to dig out Dow from underneath it.
Men’s Division 3 get over the top of the Raptors
The Men’s division 3 team had finished 2nd in the regular season. A top 4 final series meant they had to play Minor Premiers, South Western Sydney Raptors, in the first semi final. The Hornets got dusted 9-3 that night. It saw the Raptors go straight through to the Grand Final, and the Hornets needing to beat he UNSW Bullets to get another crack at the Raptors. The Hornets got past the Bullets 7-4, to get the shot they wanted.
The Hornets started well, leading 1-0 and then 2-1. Seconds before half time the Hornets put on some razzle dazzle and scored a touchdown to give them a 3-1 lead at the break. When they scored first in the second half to take it to 4-1, the Hornets Supporters were starting to believe that the upset was possible. But this belief was soon tested as the Raptors fought back scoring 4 straight tries to take the lead 5-4. The Hornets needed something special, to wrestle back momentum. They did this through 2 contrasting tries to Keith Lee in “Hornets Corner” – so named for the congregation of Hornets supporters there. Lee’s first effort was a stumbling commando crawling effort. His second included a diving somersault effort for his legion of fans. He is a showman. When Player of the final Tim Sleigh linked with winger Rohan Scanes in the final minute. Hornets Supporters knew that the 2 try lead meant another extra time nail biter was going to be avoided. Just as well – there wasn’t a finger nail left amongst them.
Gallant Women’s Division 3
The Women’s div 3 team came up against Minor Premiers Balmain Tigers in their Grand Final. The Hornets and the Tigers had played each other 4 times already this season with Tigers winning twice, the Hornets wining once, and a draw. But the Tigers were the big improvers of the competition and had won most recent encounters; a 3-2 win in the final round, and a 2-0 win in the first semi final.
The Hornets fought hard, but a Tigers outfit full of running jumped to a 3-0 lead. The Hornets dragged one back late in the half to see a half time score of 3-1. When the Tigers scored first in the 2nd half to take a 4-1 lead, the gap appeared too large for the Hornets to breach. But the Hornets kept working, and were next to score to give the supporters in Hornets Corner some hope. However the Tigers scored the sealer shortly afterwards and were deserved winners of the Grand Final.
The Hornets were gallant in defeat and left everything they had out on the field.
The Day of the Hornet
So at the end of Vawdon Cup Grand Final day 2017, of the 5 Hornets teams competing, 3 came away as champions. In all 3 of those cases, the Hornets had to come from behind to win.
“This is what we are most proud of” said Hornets President Brad Mitchel.
“All our teams competed with a never say die attitude. We want to be known as a club that is defined by that kind of spirit.”
You can mark down October 28 2017 as a big day for the Hills Hornets club. But rest assured there will be bigger days ahead. With NSW Touch state cup up next in December, all teams can go into that tournament with a lot of confidence.
It’s an exciting time to be a Hornet.