WATCH: Incredible scenes as Mackay hangs on for draw
BRUISED, battered, but beaming.
Mackay State High School came within minutes of causing a monumental upset on their home patch against perennial Aaron Payne Cup heavyweights St Brendan's College this afternoon.
The visitors ran in two tries in six second-half minutes to somewhat spare their blushes, in what ended as a 12-all draw at the Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds.
Co-captains Henri Stocks and Damon Watson engineered an incredible first-half performance for Mackay; Stocks' delayed pass to put Watson over the line sent the hosts into halftime up 12-4 and the fairytale suddenly seemed possible.
However, St Brendan's coach Scott Minto put a rocket up his boys at the break and they responded in the second half.
The visitors dominated possession and drew level with 10 minutes to play. But as had been their story for much of the day, St Brenden's proved wasteful when it counted and the whistle sounded for full-time at a stalemate.
Minto said his side "could have won three times over" but for their inconsistency in attack.
"We were under 60 per cent for completions ... that was the sticking point," he said.
"We should probably have put the sword to that mob, to be honest with you."
A frustrated Minto rued his side's lacklustre first half and suggested some key calls went against them at the death.
But that's footy, he said, and if St Brendan's want to reprise their 2019 grand final appearance they must be better.
"You have to rise above all of that if you want to be a good footy side. I think we were pretty poor today," he said.
Without a win through two matches, Minto said next week's encounter with St Patrick's College was now a "must win" if his side was to keep its finals hopes alive.
"We have to go back and find something else otherwise we'll get spat out pretty quick," he said.
But the story of the day was the hosts. After their demoralising 46-4 loss to state champions Kirwan last week, their task did not appear any easier against the visitors from Yeppoon.
With the wind at their backs and a vocal crowd on the sideline, Mackay gained the ascendancy early.
It took Stocks just three minutes to put first points on the board, with a cheeky show-and-go from dummy half all it took to find the line.
The inspirational halfback had a hand again 15 minutes later when he put co-captain Watson through a gap in the stout St Brendan's line.
Stocks often acts as Mackay's barometer and it proved true late in the second half when the skipper was forced from the field with a severe cramp in his calf.
Without Stocks to pull the strings, Mackay's attack faltered. The weight of possession swung in St Brendan's favour and the hosts began to tire, which opened holes for the likes of Peyton Jenkins to exploit.
Tries to Jake Baigrie and Tristan Barron soon followed and the visitors appeared destined to snatch an unlikely victory.
But again some wasteful footy near the line brought St Brendan's undone, and Minto's men were left shaking their heads in frustration at the final whistle.
Mackay skipper Watson, however, was jubilant.
"From our boys, that was a really good effort. To come away with a draw against a quality team isn't a bad result at all," he said.
Watson said the group would take confidence in the result into next week's game against Ignatius Park College in Townsville.
Aaron Payne Cup Round 2 -
Mackay State High School 12 (H. Stocks, D. Watson tries; H. Stocks 2 goals) drew St Brendan's College 12 (T. Barron 2, J. Baigrie tries) at Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds
Mackay Best: H. Stocks, D. Watson, A. Miller-Stevens
St Brendan's Best: T. Barron, P. Jenkins, C. Williamson