Tumut’s 45-14 victory over Wagga Brothers at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon was two Group 9 competition points in the bag, but there could be far bigger implications on the Blues with injuries and a potential suspension set to hamper their season.
On the injury front, Mitch Ivill and Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai both left the game with upper leg complaints and Jordy Anderson battled on and played out the game after suffering what looked to be an ankle injury in the first half.
To make matters worse, Fetongi Tuinauvai and Brothers front rower Warren Lloyd, who played together at Kangaroos in 2019, were both sent off by referee Shane Bartlett after tempers flared late in the first half at Twickenham on Saturday.
Tuinauvai was only in his second game back after serving a 10-week suspension for striking, and it will be interesting to see how the Group 9 judiciary handle Saturday’s infringement at Wednesday night’s hearing.
The Blues in general didn’t play their best brand of footy, but still managed to pile on eight tries to three in muddy and slippery conditions, while never really reaching top gear.
Co-coach Zac Mastered said the Blues played down to their opposition, and while disappointed, he was happy to leave home with two points.
“It was a very scrappy win and the conditions probably didn’t help us,” Masters said.
“We seem to do this against these lesser sides, and we always talked about it, but it is hard to play good footy against these sides and when it’s a scrappy game – I’m just happy we got the job done.”
Jordan Anderson was voted players’ player, and rightly so, with the dogged halfback playing a smart game in attack but defending with the brute force of a front rower.
“I thought Jordy was really good for us defensively. Adam has been playing awesome in the middle, and that is his spot now. I really thought he had a big game. And Ronny again, he was good,” Masters said.
Tumut relied on their depth and three reserve graders made their impact on the match, with both Jesse Bellchambers and Billy Bridgeman scoring tries and Jack Dean making his presence felt in the middle, with multiple bullocking runs putting Brothers on the back foot.
“Our boys that stepped up from reserve grade made an impact. Jesse and Jack had some great runs and Billy Bridgeman was a great addition on the wing,” Masters said.
Masters and Lachlan Bristow will have a busy week ahead of them, with multiple players potentially unavailable for selection ahead of their Maher Cup rematch against the Gundagai Tigers next Saturday at Anzac Park.
“We didn’t want any injuries, you never do, but it seems to happen in these games. We brought a few boys off early for a spell and hopefully they can rest up and be right for next weekend,” Masters said.
In an entertaining round nine of the Group 9 competition, the results finished as expected, although the closeness of some contests will raise eyebrows.
Southcity defeated a luckless Young 20-12 at Alfred Oval, Temora nearly shocked the reigning Group 9 premiers Gundagai when going down 24-22 at Nixon Park and Albury pushed Wagga Kangaroos all the way, going down 24-18 at Greenfield Park.
The weather was spectacular at Twickenham on Saturday, with footy fans greeted to a warmer than usual afternoon on the Madigan and Hobby Hills.
It was a different story under foot though and Twickenham played anything but kindly, with rain from earlier in the week meaning a muddy field and slippery conditions.
It was a quiet start, with both sides testing the waters, and it wasn’t until the 10-minute mark that Tumut scored first.
After an error, Tumut were on Brothers’ goal line, and Brayden Draber was able to break through a would-be tackler to score a soft try on the left edge.
Jacob Toppin failed to make the conversion and Tumut led 4-0.
Four minutes later and the Blues were on the attack again after Cade Price dropped a regulation catch at fullback.
Lachlan Bristow made Brothers and Price pay for the mistake, scooting to the right of the sticks to score. Toppin converted and Tumut led 10-nil after 15 minutes.
The next few sets of six were scrappy from both sides, but Tumut were next to score, with back-to-back sets leading to good field position.
Zac Masters received the ball close to the line, and as he has done all season long, he tucked the ball under his arm and proved too big and strong for a woeful Wagga defensive line.
Toppin converted and Tumut led 16-0 after 25 minutes.
Tempers started to flare after the try, and moments later, a melee erupted midfield, which was followed by a short period of shirt-grabbing that was jeered by a raucous Tumut crowd.
Both Fetongi Tuinauvai and Warren Lloyd were sent from the field.
Just on half time, Tommy Jeffery was rewarded for another typically strong game in the second row, crossing for a try on the left edge. The try was converted by Toppin, and Tumut were in front 22-0 at half time.
Things went from bad to worse for Brothers after half time, with a forward pass in goal off the kick-off leading to a drop out.
Off the drop out, Draber received the ball 30m out from the goal line and decided to make his way for the corner, showing a good stiff arm and clean foot work when beating three defenders to score the try of the day.
In front of a small but vocal Madigan and Hobby Hill crowd, Lachlan Bristow slotted the conversion from the sideline and Tumut were ahead 28-0 after 43 minutes.
Back-to-back Tumut errors allowed Brothers to get on the front foot momentarily, and Sam Macklan scored. Billy Sainsbury converted to make it 28-6 after 50 minutes.
By this time, Mitch Ivill and Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai were forced to leave the field with injuries.
Five minutes later and Tumut were scoring again, with Bristow scooting and passing to a rampaging Adam Pearce, who barged his way over for a try.
Bristow converted and Tumut led 34-6 after 55 minutes.
The Blues continued to press the Wagga side’s defensive line with relentless energy, and Bristow was again orchestrating more points, scooting left and lofting a pass to Jesse Bellchambers on the left wing, who dived over for an easy try.
Bristow again delighted the home crowd when converting from the sideline and Tumut led 40-6 after an hour of play.
Five minutes later and it was Billy Bridgeman’s turn to score, with the young winger getting the ball on the right wing and diving over to finish off a nice set piece.
Bristow missed this conversion and Tumut were up 44-6 after 65 minutes.
Brothers would hit back with two entertaining tries off their own in the final stages with both Joe Leggatt and Cade Price scoring, but it would be too little, too late, with Lachlan Bristow slotting a field goal on the final siren to help Tumut to a comfortable 45-14 victory.
Tumut reserve graders on a roll
Tumut’s reserve grade side recorded a rare feat on Saturday when defeating Wagga Brothers 40-18.
The Blues have now won three games on the trot – something not recorded since 2010, and with four wins and four losses to show for the first half of the season, they sit safely inside the Burmeister Shield top five.
Tumut had the help of Jesse Bellchambers, who was arguably best on ground, with the lively playmaker also scoring a try.
Jack Dean was impressive in the front row, and Jordy Maher was the catalyst for many a try, and both forwards managed tries themselves.
Flynn Piper-Bye scored a brace, with his second try a spectacular leap into the air, before catching the ball and scoring.
Gus Luke scored from hooker, scooting between two tired defenders, while try of the day belonged to Billy Bridgeman.
The quick fullback beat multiple defenders in an entertaining 70m run, scoring out wide in front of a vocal Twickenham crowd.
Tumut let their guard down late, conceding multiple soft tries, but the Blues were already in celebration mode and thinking of next Saturday’s blockbuster against rivals and the second placed Gundagai Tigers.
Juniors humbled at home
Tumut’s under 18s side entered Saturday’s Weissel Cup match against Brothers unbeaten and top of the table but went down 34-nil in a lacklustre performance at home.
The Blues lacked energy, while a Brothers’ side, laden with big bodies and plenty of talent, had their way with Tumut.
The loss comes at a good time for the young Tumut side, who have the second half of the season to correct any flaws before facing Brothers again.