THEY say winning becomes a habit.
Just ask Hastings Valley Vikings after they overcame an early 15-0 deficit in the major semi-final before registering an impressive 39-30 victory over Coffs Snappers.
The win on the road created two pieces of history.
It is believed to be the Vikings first semi-final win in Coffs Harbour and it will allow them to host a fourth-straight grand final at Oxley Oval on August 26.
But they didn’t have it all their own way.
Coach Mark Howard admitted he did have some early concerns, especially when the Vikings couldn’t get their hands on the ball.
“We were pretty slow out of the blocks and it looked a bit like the old scenario of the highway blues coming back to haunt us again to be honest,” he said.
“If the Snappers had have scored one more try it would have put us to bed.
“But somehow the boys managed to rally and got some ball and some possession and managed to put some phases together.”
Howard said his side used their years of experience in finals matches to claw their way back into the contest.
It looked a bit like the old scenario of the highway blues coming back to haunt us again.Hastings Valley Vikings coach Mark Howard
“In the first 15 minutes they had the ball for 10 of them,” he said.
“I knew the momentum was going to change, but even though it was only 15 minutes into the game you had that feeling we had to score next.”
An Adam McCormack try was quickly followed by one to brother Hamish and the Vikings were back in the game.
“Once we got the first try everyone settled down and started to get into the game a bit,” Howard said.
The Vikings scored 26 unanswered points to take a 26-15 lead to the break.
They then got into the grind in the second half and forced the Snappers to play catch-up football, before the Snappers put their noses in front 27-26 with about 15 minutes to go.
The lead then changed twice again before Adam McCormack’s second try put the Vikings back in front for good.
“Experience in these sorts of games is enormous,” Howard said.
“To be able to draw back on those games where you’ve been in that situation and not panic is something we can fall back on.
I knew the momentum was going to change, but even though it was only 15 minutes into the game you had that feeling we had to score next.Mark Howard
“It’s probably something that Coffs lacked a little bit. They played a bit of panic football at the end which fell into our hands.”
Howard said it was a gutsy performance especially from his backline who have labelled themselves “dad’s army.”
“We only have one bloke under 30 out there so all the old boys are all carrying niggling injuries at this time of year like everyone is, but I think the older blokes feel it a bit more,” he said.
“Those guys kept turning up and playing through injuries whereas a younger fella would put his hand up and take comfort in the sideline.
“These boys stuck their hand up to their mate and stayed out there.”