The Tumut Blues might have only finished with 13 fit players but that didn’t stop the reigning Group 9 premiers belting the visiting Young Cherrypickers 40-12 at Twickenham on Sunday.
It was certainly a tale of two halves, with a fit and firing Blues taking it to the Pickers in the first 20 minutes, going ahead 22-nil after tries to Jordan Anderson, Lachlan Bristow, Dean Bristow and Michael Fenn.
Young’s middle was soft at times and Lachlan Bristow and Jacob Toppin had a field day in and around the ruck.
The Blues would lose Lachlan (ankle) and Dean (neck) in quick succession but the home side still fought hard, with Toppin playing hooker and the Blues essentially working around Anderson as the sole playmaker.
Zac Masters added himself to the score sheet towards the back end of the half and it was only a lucky try to Mick Picker on the verge of half time that saved some face for Young, with the Blues going into the break up 28-6.
The second half was a real grind, with Matt Byatt (shoulder) an early casualty, and the Blues forced to dig in, with the likes of Masters, Fenn, Tommy Jeffery, Jake McGrath and Adam Pearce playing big minutes.
Pearce would eventually leave the field due to a nose complaint but the Blues would keep the Pickers at Bay, winning the second half 12-6 and the game 40-12.
Blues co-captain/coach Lachlan Bristow couldn’t have been prouder of his side after the match.
“It was unreal. We worked on a few things at training this week and it came out in that first 20 (minutes). We executed the game so well and I thought it was the best brand of footy we had played all year,” Bristow said.
“Unfortunately injuries struck and we had to dig in for the grind and hold tough and I can’t gives the boys enough of a wrap, they bloody got the job done.”
The Blues, who showed real determination to hold out the Pickers at many points throughout the second half, played for one another according to Bristow.
“That’s what we have been building our game plan around, just that effort during the tough times and ripping in for your mate,” Bristow said.
“It’s shows, we were down there for 10 minutes when Toppo got sin-binned and we didn’t concede any points, which is a massive pat on the back for us.”
Bristow found for youngster Parish Bellette, who stepped up after a full game of reserve grade to play 60 minutes at fullback in first grade, scoring a try and proving very capable under the high ball.
“Mate it’s absolutely unbelievable. He has had four years off football and to get thrown in the deep end like he did today and have a blinder, I am absolutely rapt for him and can’t thank him enough,” Bristow said.
The Blues skipper complimented Bellette on his try, which was a piece of lovely off-the-cuff rugby league and suggested he might be a regular feature in the Blues backline.
“He put the kick through, re-gathered and scored and it was beautiful to watch and I am over the moon for him,” Bristow said.
“After that performance, he has to be push his case for a spot in the 17 for sure.”
After the tough result, Pickers coach Nick Hall admitted Tumut got the better of his side in the opening stages, which essentially set up the result.
“Tumut came out firing and we were hoping for a better start and we just didn’t get it,” Hall said.
“Our guys didn’t match Tumut, we didn’t get in front, we didn’t get the wrestle right and Tumut were too good.
“They got some momentum, they got some tries and they got some penalties and it was hard to fight back after that.”
Hall said Young did show some character to fight back but acknowledged that Tumut were too far ahead once the match got into the grind.
“We put our heads down for a while and had to be better. The second 20 (minutes) of the first half was better and we competed, but Tumut after that were just good enough to get the odd try here and there,” Hall said.
“The heat went out of the game. It was a better second half by us but the game was over by that point.”