COMETH the moment, cometh the man
Maitland captain Chris Logan scored a brilliant solo try at the death to propel the Blacks into the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final and break the hearts of Merewether Carlton at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The Blacks were down 24-19 and appeared to be out of ideas and fast running out of time.
Enter Logan. From a scrum near the 22m, the outside centre ran an angled line back on the inside of replacement fly-half Ryan McCormack and exploded into a hole. He wrong-footed Merewether fly-half Sam Bright and was too quick for breakaways Sam Dart and Jarome Wilson and dived over beside the posts.
McCormack added the extras to snatch a 26-24 triumph and seal a place in the decider for the first time since 2010.
They went down to Hamilton 39-34 on that occasion. Again they meet the Hawks, who are in line for an historic fourth straight premiership.
For much of Saturday, it looked as though it would be Merewether, not Maitland, who would be challenging the Hawks on the final day.
After a slow start, the Greens led 14-12 after 20 minutes and extended it to 21-12 on the half hour.
Maitland halfback Max Stafford darted over from the base of a ruck after a Logan bust in the 35th minute to close the gap to 21-19.
Merewether had the breeze at their back in the second half. As they have done throughout the finals series they plugged away through the forwards, controlling possession and, in turn, the game.
Replacement breakaway Sam Dart went close, spilling the ball inches short in the 63rd minute.
Sam Bright, who spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a repeated infringement, added a penalty tin the 67th minute to stretch the margin to 24-19.
A minute later the Blacks were reduced to 14 men when Nick Davidson was given a yellow card for repeated infringements.
The Blacks needed something special. Carl Manu and Josh McCormack threatened to break the line. But the Greens remained in tact.
Then, up stepped Logan to deliver the match-winner.
Apart from Logan, Michael Howell carted the ball up all day and did a power of work in tight. Turi Uini anchored a dominant scrum and Stafford was a constant menace.
Outside centre Dylan Smouha was the Greens’ best and just shaded Wilson, No.8 Ramiha Smiler and Bright.