Tumut won their way into a hotly-anticipated competition decider against arch-rival Gundagai after accounting for Young 22-8 in the preliminary final at Anzac Park on Sunday.
The reigning premiers will now fight for back-to-back Group 9 titles when taking on the Tigers in next Sunday’s Group 9 grand final in Wagga.
Blues co-captain/coach Lachlan Bristow missed the game due to suspension, but said it was “awesome” to see his teammates stand up and earn a well-deserved grand final berth.
“It’s awesome mate, we’ve given ourselves a shot to go back-to-back, which was the goal we set at the start of the year,” Bristow said.
In a tense 80 minutes of rugby league, the Blues didn’t have things go all their own way, with the Cherrypickers keeping pace for large chunks of the match, especially after the Blues fired early with tries to Adam Pearce and Jordan Anderson in the opening quarter.
Still, Bristow was happy with the overall effort of his side after comparing the win to last week’s loss to Gundagai.
“It was pretty good today, I think it was a lot better than last week,” Bristow said.
“We spoke about a few things during the week, like our discipline and that and it was a lot better, but we do have a bit of improvement in us.”
After going into the break ahead 12-8 with Young centre Thomas Jenkins scoring twice late in the first half, Bristow said a half time spray from brother and co-captain/coach Dean Bristow may have helped his side keep Young scoreless in the second half, while Zac Masters and Matt Richards secured the win, each scoring a try.
‘The response at half time was good and I knew we would come out strongly after Dean amped them up,” Bristow said.
“We started well but let them right back into the game, so we knew coming out in the second half we had to put the foot back on the peddle again; which we did.”
Tumut will now have a big seven days to prepare for another decider, and Zac Masters, who was arguably the best on field for the Blues against the Cherrypickers, agreed that a Gundagai-Tumut decider is what most footy fans wanted to see.
“I think everyone has been hoping for it. I think we were the two best teams all year and it always should have been a Gundagai and Tumut grand final, and we’ve got that, “Masters said.
The in-form prop said a tight-knit playing group had responded well after last week’s semi-final loss to Gundagai, and he hoped Tumut had one more win in them this season.
“We’ve put this side together this year with a pretty awesome bunch of blokes and it was good to finish minor premiers and get back there (to the grand final) this year, which gives us a second crack,” Masters said.
“I thought last weekend we were pretty disappointing; we’ve got a great crew and we know we can win it and it would be awesome to win it with this bunch of boys.”
Despite the hype and build up leading into next weekend’s grand final, Bristow wanted to remind his players to enjoy themselves before starting to get serious in the back end of this week.
“We’ll focus on recovery and just enjoy it and relax and when it gets to the end of the week, it’s business time and the boys will know when it’s time to go,” Bristow said.