After going behind by two tries in the opening 8 minutes, then giving up what could well have been a heartbreaking, length of the field score with just over 10 minutes remaining, Park showed their true resolve to pull out a win on the game’s final play.
Park looked lethargic in the opening minutes and their poor tackling contributed to two early Lake County scores. First, a lost lineout was spun wide to the right and despite a rare good cover tackle, the Gladiators were first on the scoreboard. Only moments later, Lake County extended their lead. A break by their right winger was initially stopped but good support play allowed him to pop to his following runners and put Park down by two tries.
Park was rocking on their heels until a jinking run by the effervescent Frisch, stepping outside the attempted tackles, gave Park some momentum of their own and claw back a try.
This seemed to calm down Park and they soon began to get back into the game. Stead and Rasmussen were brave in the tackle as David and Rett banged away to keep Park on the front foot.
It was out wide though that Park scored their second. After being awarded a penalty, Park took the ball into contact and when it was moved wide to the left wing, Ehlert joined the attack from his fullback position to finish a slick-handled move.
While this looked to have steadied Park, another long break right at the half edged Lake County back further in front.
In the second half, Park began to assert themselves. Strong running from Diblasi and a rejuvenated pack kept Park going forward. O’Malley was twice the beneficiary. Twice the flyhalf was able to spot gaps close to the line after good approach work from his team.
Up by a single point, Park pushed for a try to seal the win but a Stein kick to the corner, while almost reaching Prengeman was fielded by a Lake County player who ran untouched fully 100 yards and with the conversion Park found themselves down by six.
At this stage, tired legs had been replaced by fresh and Dougherty, in particular, provided the spark that was needed. Park probed time and again to cross the line but was turned back until, with no time on the clock, it was a Dougherty lunge that gave Park hope. With the try scored, Park still trailed by a single point with no time left but the conversion to come, Parry, on his Park debut, casually stroked the kick through for the dramatic win.
Team: David, Schwadron, Rett (Grachan), Stelzer (Perrizo), Jewell, Stead, Rasmussen, McEntee (Dougherty), Stein M, O’Malley (Parry), Prengeman (Rosenfeld), Frisch (Griffin), DiBlasi, Davis (Huschen), Ehlert
Try: O’Malley 2, Frisch 1, Ehlert 1, Dougherty 1
Con: Parry 1