Benalla Bowls Club has won the 2017-18 Ovens and Murray Weekend Pennant Division A1 championship title in a thrilling victory over powerhouse Wodonga.
It was the perfect way to finish off a superb season for Benalla, with the team only losing one game for the entire year — round 2 against Wodonga.
The final score was 97-80, but that does not reflect how tight the game was. In the 85 ends played in total, the game was within 2-3 shots the entire day, until Benalla pulled away late to charge to victory.
The game looked like it was slipping away when Chris Cooney’s rink went down 18-5 early in the day — prompting coach Matt Robertson to bring the team together to have a chat about some tactics and calm the nerves. This inspired the players to turn it around and they did a fantastic job to even the scores by the end of play.
Midway through the day, scores were 40-41.
The Benalla players came together during the break and knew they had to make some big plays to take home victory.
This gave Benalla the lift it needed, and Benalla greenkeeper Rob Mitchell powered home to win his rink by eight shots.
Matt Robertson won his rink by nine, and with four ends left to play Benalla had an insurmountable lead of 16 shots.
The crowd of 100 people cheered the Benalla team home and the celebrations began when the team realised victory was imminent. The win was extra-special for some members of the team, for whom it was their first ever Division 1 title.
Benalla local John Peake was a part of that group, and Shaun McMahon, who grew up in Benalla, was also a first time Division 1 winner.
Coach Matt Robertson was thrilled with his team’s victory.
‘‘It was a really special season and it was all about the team coming together. We had every player at training most weeks and they all bought in on the team environment,’’ he said.
‘‘Everyone in the team was committed and it was great to see the rewards of that. I would like to thank every player involved and I’m just really proud of our entire season.’’
The team has the chance to win another championship in the mid-week pennant grand final on Tuesday, which would give it the rare chance to take home two Division 1 grand finals in one year — something coach Matt Robertson has never achieved.