The heavyweight battle between the Royal Devils and Star Redmen that doubled as the opening match of round five of the Tumut Pub 9s, lived up to its lofty expectations on Friday night, with the sides still locked at 10-all when the siren rang at Twickenham.
It was a physical contest with highlights of brilliance, and fans on the Madigan and Hobby Hills were left sitting on the edge of their seats and wanting more.
Star opened the contest in smart style, moving the ball downfield after Ben Roddy found space, before a deft kick from Jacob Dow was snaffled mid-air by Coen McKenzie, who then fell to the ground for a good try.
Soon after, Royal were on the attack and Stephen Gill demonstrated some attacking nouse, exploiting the blindside and offering a little show-and-go before scoring to level up the contest at 4-all.
The remainder of the first half saw both teams with their chances, and big man Chris Rainbow, captured the attention of the crowd, with multiple bullocking runs breaking the line.
After half time, both teams were denied a chance, with Corey Herrington crossing the line for Royal but penalised for a double movement, before Tallis Cotterill was in clear space and a chance of scoring before being bundled out in a terrific try-saving tackle by Herrington, who quickly made up for his mistake at the opposite end.
After a testing period, the Redmen took control of the contest, and Josh Smith crossed for a relatively easy try; Shay Thomas converted and Star were ahead 10-4.
With a minute to go, it was Star’s game to lose and it took some magic from Royal playmaker, Kaidan Bell, who levelled up the contest.
Bell chipped behind the line, before chasing it through and toeing the ball towards the goal line. In a mad rush to the ball, Bell got their first and scored a good try and only marginally missed out on a bonus-point try.
Fatigued and under pressure with seconds winding down on the clock, Bell then converted his try, levelling the score and making sure Royal left with at least one point, which keeps them in second place and a chance to vie for the coveted Roddy Shield.
The draw will be hard to swallow for Star, who drop outside of the top four and now have an uphill battle to qualify for the Roddy Shield final.
Jets muscle their way to top spot
Reigning Tumut Pub 9s premiers, Woolpack Jets, are shaping as the team to beat with only two rounds of the competition left after beating Batlow 24-11 in an entertaining contest on Friday night.
Jets are now outright first and a win on Friday night will all but seal their place in the Roddy Shield decider.
In a see-sawing game against Batlow, Woolpack ran away with an easy lead after tries to Brayden Draber, Matt Tozer and Brodie Sutton, with the Jets leading 14-nil early on.
The Tigers hit back, with Brocke Argus scoring a bonus-point try and Kabati Matangakilagi sprinting 100m to return a kick and score one of the tries of the competition, bringing the score back to 14-11 at half time, making it anyone’s game.
In the second half, Brayden Draber, Tom Hickson and Tommy Jeffery took control of the contest, with Draber scoring another try, and Hickson rounding out the win, kicking through for Sutton, who toed it back towards the try line for Hickson to score, putting the exclamation mark on a solid 24-11 victory.
Tumut Pub 9s results round 5
Royal 10 drew Star 10
Adelong 26 defeated Commercial 7
Woolpack 24 defeated Batlow 11
Oriental 25 defeated Tumbarumba 14
Pub 9s Standings
Woolpack 8 (+35)
Royal Devils 7 (+40)
Batlow 6 (-18)
Tumbarumba 5 (+7)
Star 5 (0)
Commercial 4 (-16)
Adelong 3 (-10)
Oriental Colts 2 (-39)
T&A Times team of the week
Kaidan Bell (Royal)
Chris Rainbow (Royal)
Brocke Argus (Batlow)
Brayden Draber (Woolpack)
Blake Maher (Adelong)
Jake Hardwick (Adelong)
Tate O’Donovan (Adelong)
Keigan King (Oriental)
Dylan Weir (Oriental)
Reserves: Kabati Matangakilagi (Batlow), Darcy Rixon (Tumbarumba), Tom Jeffery (Woolpack), Matthew Pearce (Star), Tallis Cotterill (Star), Tom Hickson (Woolpack).
Round 6 draw
6pm: Commercial Sharks v Batlow Tigers
6.35pm: Woolpack Jets v Star Redmen.
7.10pm: Adelong G&G v Colts.
7.45pm: Royal Devils v Tumbarumba Greens.