There was no love lost at Alfred Oval on Sunday afternoon with the Tumut Blues forced to man-up and play a tough 80-minutes of hard-hitting rugby league against the Young Cherrypickers in round four of the Group 9 competition.
In sweltering conditions for this time of year, the Blues will know they have played a game of rugby league, with the Cherrypickers forwards dishing up a good contest in the middle third of the field that led to many bloody and bruised players.
Still, Tumut weathered the storm and proved too good on the day – the visitors were never headed after Zac Masters scored two quick tries, before holding off a fast-finishing Cherrypickers for a well-deserved 30-18 victory.
Masters and Adam Pearce were standouts in the middle and laid a strong platform, while Jordy Anderson made a welcome return at half back – the talented playmaker having a hand in a try, while he often had Young on the back foot with his on-point kicking game.
After going down to Wagga Kangaroos in round two, Blues coach Lachlan Bristow was pleased to see his side bounce back against the previously top of the table Young.
“I know we are a lot better than what we showed against the Roos, so to bounce back like that and beat Young was really pleasing,” Bristow said.
Fatigue certainly played a role in the result, with two big packs juiced after 20 minutes, and Bristow admitted it played against his side at times, particularly in the second half when the Cherrypickers fought their way back from 22-6 to 22-18 with only 17-minuites remaining.
“It was pretty tough and obviously we were playing in hot conditions, so we were pretty fatigued, and they started rolling us and we just couldn’t get them on their backs,” Bristow said.
“We gave away a few penalties and let them back into it. It was pretty scrappy in the second half, but we clawed on to keep the win and we will only be better for it.”
Tumut’s bench players turned in big contributions in trying conditions, with Matthew Byatt one of the best on the park in the second half while Josh Webb and Lewis Arragon really lifted the side at times.
“We were really fatigued and pretty zapped, but the boys came on and brought heaps of energy, finding their fronts and they brought that enthusiasm we needed,” Bristow said.
When quizzed on the opposition and their premiership credentials, Bristow said Sunday’s contest was not a fair representation of either team, although he believed Young were still one of the sides to beat.
“I think they will be thereabouts, but to be honest, I think both teams were probably a bit flat, but once we get some more footy under our belt, they will definitely be a team to beat,” Bristow said.
Young coach, Nick Hall, said a tough first half in which Tumut led 22-6 at the break proved the difference in the end.
“I think the best side won on the day, I think Tumut earned it with a big first half, and they were good, and it was a game of the rucks, and Tumut won the rucks early, and they always seemed to be a step ahead today,” Hall said.
“They went away and fixed up a few problems, they fixed up their ball handling from the game before against Roos, and we fell out of it a little bit and weren’t good enough on the day.”
Hall was disappointed that Tumut scored four of their five tries from close range, with Masters snaring a brace and both Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai and Matthew Byatt getting in on the action, when burrowing over from only metres out.
“You have to be better than that. I’m definitely not happy about it,” Hall said.
“It was something we talked about at half time, and it is something we trained for and it is something we need to improve.”
Young and Tumut now have the competition bye to contend with next weekend before the Cherrypickers host a top of the table Southcity and the Blues take on a giant-killing Albury Thunder in Junee.
Bristow said the stop-start nature of their opening rounds wasn’t helping Tumut’s consistency.
“It’s probably a bad thing. We just came from a week off and we haven’t really played any consistent footy this early on,” Bristow said.
“Sometimes if you don’t play a lot of footy, you can be a bit flat when you come back and I don’t think we are too bruised, so we are looking forward to get into some footy.
“We will probably rest up Tuesday and get in a couple of hard sessions after that before we get into out next game.”
For a full match report, readers can pick up Tuesday’s edition of the Tumut and Adelong Times.
Tumut 30 (Tries: Zac Masters 2, Mitch Ivill, Matthew Byatt, Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai; Conversions: Jacob Toppin 4; Penalty conversions: Jacob Toppin) defeated Young Cherrypickers 18 (Tries: Nicholas Cornish, Mitch Cornish, Jaynayah Freeman; Conversions: Matthew Murray 3).