In a ferocious contest in front of a big and rowdy crowd at Twickenham this afternoon, the Tumut Blues retained the Maher Cup and enacted revenge on Group 9 premiers and arch-rivals, Gundagai, winning 30-12.
Entering the match with three debutants and a handful of new faces, the Blues were deemed the underdogs by many rugby league pundits, after going down to a similar Gundagai line-up with a more experienced team in 2020.
Still, the Tumut side began the season brilliantly and went on to win the contest in convincing fashion, in-turn proving their doubters wrong.
The Blues shot out to a 16-nil lead after first half tries to Zac Masters, Andy Harris and Lachlan Bristow, but the Tigers rallied, scoring two tries via Derek Hay and Luke Berkrey to go into the break only four points down.
The Blues came out of the sheds firing, and tries to Brayden Draber, Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai and Thomas Hickson helped Tumut to a comfortable 30-12 win in front of a boisterous home crowd.
Blues co-coach, Lachlan Bristow, said a good first half laid the platform for the Blues, which allowed them to take the contest away from Gundagai in the second half.
“It was tough as we expected, I think we really came out of the blocks well, we weathered their storm early on,” Bristow said.
“A few bad penalties let them get back into it, but we went into half time and spoke about that and came out and really put the foot back down and came away with the win.”
Zac Masters was named best on ground, winning the Jones Beavan medal, and Bristow couldn’t be any prouder of his bullocking front rower.
“It’s unreal, he is just a physical specimen. A big bloke like him, who can play 80 minutes in the middle, he is so worthy in the team and he is a beast,” Bristow said.
Masters didn’t want to focus on his own performance, with the Blues co-coach instead praising his youngsters who stood up when it counted most.
“I am so proud of the boys, I didn’t know what to expect today with a few new faces, but they ripped in, and to put in a performance like that, especially with the start we had, was just awesome,” Masters said.
“We knew they would do a job for us and that’s what they did, they went out there, got the job done and we got the win.”
Gundagai captain/coach, Luke Berkrey, was understandably disappointed with the result, and he believed a blistering start by the Blues was the difference in the end.
“It was a pretty scrappy old affair, but I think Tumut came out with a lot more energy and it’s a shame we fell flat there for a bit, but full credit to Tumut, they were just too good for us today,” Berkrey said.
“Tumut probably turned up ready to go and got us on the backfoot there, which is the most disappointing thing for us.”
Despite the result, Berkrey was proud to have played in the first Maher Cup match in 50 years.
“We were extremely honoured and privileged to play the game and honoured to represent everyone who had played before us,” Berkrey said.
While the Tigers will be left to rue the loss, Tumut again start a Group 9 season with a win, and retain the Maher Cup until at least round 10, when the Gundagai host the Blues at Anzac Park on June 26.