SWINDON St George pulled off the biggest upset of the season to reach the West of England Premier League grand final by beating the undefeated Cheltenham Old Patesians last Saturday.
Having only been entered into the end of season play-offs after the withdrawal of Bristol Sonics the Swindon side went into the game as underdogs. Cheltenham had only once been held to a winning margin of less than 10 all season.
St George found themselves 18 points up within the first 20 minutes and never fell behind. Four tries from Bruce Vuethanatotoka, two from Joe Zarit and one each from John Singfield, George Cowley and Killian Spain, as well as three conversions from Gwyn Jenkins saw the Greenbridge Road side to 42-36 victory.
Assistant coach Carl Baker was very proud of his team’s performance and delighted with the resilience they showed against a team he described as the best in the league.
“We went there knowing everyone thought we would be defeated. We had nothing to lose and nothing to prove to anyone except ourselves,” Baker told the Advertiser.
“George (Cowley, the captain) pulled us to one side and said we had to play our own game. That was our only gameplan, we’ll do what we do and see what happens.
“After the first quarter of the game we were 18-0 and at that point we realised we had a chance of doing this.
“We gathered again and had a stern talk, saying: ‘Do not get complacent, think we’ve won this or back off’. It’s happened before where we have been up and been a bit cocksure, end up relaxing and losing.
“There was a point in the second half where our heads dropped and they got back to within two points but we held out.
“It was a simple case of a rugby league team playing a union side. They’re a very good union team and we were playing league but it just worked for us as soon as we started to get ahead they started to so their frustration. They could not believe we were doing it and then they dropped off their game.
“Six minutes from the end and two points up we managed to get a turnover and scored off that to get the ball back and another set of six. So with one minute of the game left we had our fifth tackle and kicked down field. Three of our guys gave chase, their full-back panicked and turned the ball over. At this point some players started cheering but I told them to shut up and keeping playing that last minute.
“When the ref blew for full time the cheers went up and you could all the friends and family from all over the field, it’s a really good feeling to hear that and know it’s for you.
“We were a new team, at the start of the season everyone had a new player outside them. As the season’s progressed you can see our scores going up and the opposition’s going down and now the wins have started coming.
“We are now a group of friends who play rugby league together and that’s special. To turnover the undefeated minor champions goes to show when a group of guys build that skill set, gain confidence and learn their own game you can achieve things.”
St George now take on Gloucestershire Warriors in the league grand final this Saturday.