There was a moment before Tumut and Young’s preliminary semi-final at Anzac Park on Sunday that indicated the Blues were on course for an inspired win.
During a minute’s silence that paid respect to former Blue and popular local footballer Sebastian ‘Chub’ Webb, the Blues were close and nervy, and looked to be desperate for a win.
Young on the other hand didn’t seem as switched on, which was evident after the first few minutes of play.
A head high on Tumut centre Lewis Arragon in the opening set of the game didn’t help Young’s causes, with the Blues subsequently in attacking field position.
As a result of this good field position, Adam Pearce was able to cross for a try on the left edge after spinning free of two Young defenders, while Jacob Toppin converted for a six-nil lead.
After Tumut’s try, both sides went set for set and Young could have scored off a clever Josh McCrone kick, but Mick Picker knocked the ball on, letting Tumut off the hook.
Tumut had some good chances inside the first 15 minutes, but failed to capitalise, with the final pass not sticking or errors causing the reigning premiers some real issues.
In the 17th minute, Tumut’s seemingly relentless pressure paid off when Jordan Anderson darted from first receiver to score an easy try on the right edge; Toppin converted and the Blues led 12-nil.
After points, Joe Picker was left concussed and unable to return to the field when trying to tackle a bustling Zac Masters.
At the 20-minute mark, Tumut really started to falter though, giving away penalties and making errors at silly points.
In fact, Tumut only completed twice in the final 15 minutes.
After consecutive penalties in Tumut’s half, Young were on the attack and were able to score a relatively soft try on the right edge when Tom Jenkins strolled over; Matthew Murray missed the conversion for a 12-4 score line.
Young were on the front foot at times at the back end of the second half, but lacked any polish in attack
In return, Tumut had their on opportunities, most notably when Jordan Anderson kicked a 40/20, but the Blues lost possession on Young’s line, letting them off the hook.
After the mistake, the Cherrypickers has a big opportunity, when John Grant found space on the right edge and looked a scoring chance but a heroic one-on-one tackle by Dean Bristow saved a try.
Unfortunately, the Blues made a mistake shortly afterwards and Young, who were then camped in the Blues half, were on the attack and Jenkins was able to score his second try just before half time; Murray missing the conversion and Tumut led 12-8 at the break.
After the break, Dean Bristow returned a ball and looked to be injured when caught awkwardly in a tackle but played on despite being incapacitated.
Young did have a chance to score early in the half, with John Grant put in space on the right edge, but a terrific Connor Massen tackle saved a certain try.
In return, Tumut moved the ball up field and were on the attack and a cross field kick from Anderson was batted back in field by Matt Richards to Tolo Aroha-Tuinauvai, who beat two defenders before offloading back to Richards, who crossed for a try on the right edge.
Toppin missed the conversion and Tumut were ahead 16-8 with 34 minutes remaining.
Massen was again in the thick of things, when chasing a high ball and jamming Grant, before Masters also joined in; forcing an error and putting Tumut on the attack.
Tumut couldn’t score and Young worked their way up field but a one-on-one rake from Anderson saved the Blues.
Young continued to attack at times and could have scored when Jenkins leaped high to catch a Josh McCrone kick, but a knock on from John Grant in the aerial battle spoiled the play, with Tumut let off the hook again.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Tumut had as break in play and Dean Bristow pulled the playing group aside, before laying it down to his players.
Bristow told his group that they may be hurting, and they may be tired, but winning and playing for one another was the most important thing if they want to play in next week’s grand final.
On the back of the three-quarter time talk, Tumut really piled on the pressure and it was a Massen line break that had the Blues in attacking field position.
Tumut had the last laugh and would score the final try when Masters powered over for a well-earned try; Toppin converting and Tumut winning 22-8.
The result was met with a relieved and jubilant playing group that knew the job wasn’t done yet ahead of what is sure to be an enthralling grand final against Tigers.
Anderson proves the difference for Blues
The Tumut Blues will be thanking their lucky stars Jordan Anderson was available to play on Sunday, with the Pommie playmaker one of his side’s standouts during their 22-8 victory over Young at Anzac Park on Sunday.
The Tumbarumba-based footballer was set to miss the contest after receiving a medium grade dangerous tackle charge for his effort on Joel Field against Gundagai the week earlier, yet was free to play after the club successfully appealed the charge when facing the Group 9 judiciary on Wednesday night.
Anderson repaid the faith, scoring the second try of the match, setting up two more tries and adding some individual brilliance with a key one-on-one strip, a 40/20 kick and some sensational defence.
A humble Anderson was pleased to have a helping hand in the win but instead looked to his teammates when asked about his own performance.
“It’s always good to get over the line and help a few of the boys get a couple (of tries), but It’s not about me, I just like giving the ball on and they all put the hard work in,” Anderson said.
The Blues premiership-winning half, who suffered a popped-out rib in the 2019 decider, said a dominant Blues pack made his life so much easier against Young on Sunday.
“It was the forwards mainly; they led the way and laid the platform and I tried my best to back their good work up,” Anderson said.
Co-captain/coach Lachlan Bristow couldn’t praise Anderson enough, suggesting he was a player that all teammates appreciated and respected.
“He was awesome. He is just the ultimate competitor and he is just one of those guys you want in your team; he does the tough stuff and he is really good for us,” Bristow said.
Bristow admitted it was a surprise to have Anderson available for the game but wasn’t complaining after the win.
“It was huge; it was a bit of a shock that he would be allowed to play, but such a bonus as we all saw today (Sunday),” Bristow said.
Blues front rower Zac Masters also praised Anderson, who he believes is one of the toughest players he has ever played with.
“He was unreal mate. He has played busted a lot this year and he is probably one of the toughest blokes I’ve ever played football with and he is a halfback, so that’s saying something,” Masters said.
Masters said Anderson’s performance against Young was very typicial, and his teammate had been one of the club’s best this year.
‘He is a goer and he had an awesome game today, just like he normally does” Masters said.
“He has been one of our best all year.”
Masters, Bristow and the rest of the Blues line-up will be hoping the tough and resilient halfback has one more big game in him this season when taking on Gundagai.