18s topple mighty Cherrypickers

Mal Aitken streaks away for the game-winning try against the Young Cherrypickers on Sunday.

The Weissel Cup fixture was arguably the game of the day at Twickenham on Sunday, with the Blues edging the Young Cherrypickers 22-18. 

Young are the reigning premiers in the under 18s and have dominated this particular age group for some time but Tumut dug deep, and came from well behind to outplay the Pickers. 

Despite being up against a bigger and more physical Pickers pack, Tumut held strong in the middle, and led for most of the first half after tries to Hunter Lee and Braithan Keenan, until a late try from the visitors had the home side behind 12-10 at the break. 

Straight after halftime, Young scored again and were ahead 18-10, but to the Blues credit, they got into the grind and tired out the big Young forwards, with Ethan Gilchrist and Mal Aitken scoring in the second half to secure a very tough victory. 

Aitken’s try was a thing of beauty, after splitting some lazy defenders and streaking 30m to score the game-winner 12 minutes out from full time. 

Blues coach, Jon Burgun was thrilled with the victory and praised his side for grinding out the win. 

“It was a fantastic effort. I was really happy with them,” Burgun said. 

“I was a bit worried there when they got down in the second half but to their credit, they just fought and fought and got themselves back in to the game.”

Burgun said the Blues second half defence was the difference in the result. 

“There defensive effort was so impressive there towards the end, the whole squad played well and we got a lift out of everyone,” Burgun said.

Despite giving away some size, Burgun said his side dominated the game, which really impressed the Blues coach. 

“I thought we had the momentum the whole game, I thought the boys were on top of them physically and I was really impressed by how they stood up today,” Burgun said. 

Two players that deserve praise for Tumut were Lachlan Burgun and Luke Stuenkel, with some powerful runs and strong defence really turning the tide at points of the game. 

“They both had their best games of the year,” I was really pleased with their efforts,” Burgun said. 

Another key factor in the result was a subtle change in the spine, which saw Ethan Gilchrist forced to play a little wider than usual.

“I changed things around after 20 minutes and put Gilly (Ethan Gilchrist) to five eighth, Malik (Aitken) to hooker and Preston (Fuller) to half and I was really impressed with how that went and I will probably stick with that I reckon,” Burgun said.  

“Gilly tends to over work himself and you don’t get that explosiveness, but with him out wide, we might see that some more.”

The Blues, who now have two wins from three games and sit third on the competition ladder, will prepare to face the bottom of the table Southcity next Sunday. 

“We just need to keep them up, Southcity are probably one of the weak sides in the competition and we need to keep them focused and get the win before the bye,” Burgun said.