The local Group 9 derby between the Tumut Blues and Gundagai Tigers lived up to recent history on Sunday, with a bruising encounter turning into an arm wrestle in front of a good crowd at Twickenham.
Despite Tumut putting up a brave performance, Gundagai proved too good in the round three fixture, winning 20-nil after a late flurry of tries.
The contest left nothing to be desired, and in the opening stages both teams could have scored, with the ball flowing from one end of the field to the other end, before the Tigers and Blues got into the grind, with their middles bashing each other in a typical derby fixture.
Gundagai led 4-nil at the break, following a first half try to Latrell Siegwalt, and the opening 20 minutes of the second was a dour affair, with both sides looking to win the field position battle.
The levee bank finally broke in the final stages, and the Black and Gold piled on three quick tries to win 20-nil.
Nathan Rose scored from close range, before Damian Willis intercepted a Dean Bristow pass to score an entertaining try.
Jack Elphick secured the final try, putting the exclamation mark on a good Gundagai win.
Rose was pivotal in the Tiger’s win, scoring a try and having a hand in multiple game-changing plays, and he admitted his foray into the Tumut and Gundagai rivalry was a good experience.
“It was pretty tough out there and very physical,” Rose said.
“Obviously Tumut and Gundagai have had that rivalry for however many years, and it was a bit intense out there, but it was good to get the win.
“I’ve experienced similar stuff in Group 9 and in the Koori Knockout; there is some fierce games out there, but this was good and just good to be a part of it.”
Gundagai’s win over Tumut arrived in the middle of two competition byes and Rose said he was pleased with how the Tigers were going in general despite the stop-start nature of their opening rounds.
“We were coming off a bye, and we have another one there next week, but this game was tough, so that probably works out well, but it has been a good start to the season,” Rose said.
Rose, along with fellow Wagga recruit Latrell Siegwalt, have slotted in seamlessly at Gundagai, with the Tigers enjoying an unbeaten start to the 2022 season, and the former Southcity Bull thanked the club for being so welcoming.
“It has been really good,” Rose said.
“Gundagai have been welcoming, not only from all the players, but across the board and with the supporters and they have made it an easy transition.”
The Tigers were missing Joel Field (injury) and captain/coach Luke Berkrey (Covid) on Sunday, but they were still a class above Tumut, and their clinical performance was just too much for a Blues side that has been forced to contend with a mounting injury toll.
Tumut entered the match without the likes of Zac Masters (thumb), Jacob Toppin (hamstring), Mitch Ivill (Covid) and Joe Roddy (representative commitments), while an injury to Brodie Mirtschin in the first half compounded their depth issues.
Masters – who looked out of place on the sideline instead of toiling away in the middle – was particularly proud of his side, who did make Gundagai work for the win.
“I’m very proud of the boys. Obviously, we have a few injuries at the moment, and a few boys are stepping up and playing well,” Masters said.
“Plus, we have a few young boys there that have not played much first grade either, and they have been standing up and learning on the run and the more footy they get to play, the better we will be for it.”
Tumut had their chances, with Blake Maher denied twice on the edge, and the Blues did have good periods inside the Tiger’s 20 metre line, but the home side was unable to convert against a willing and tenacious Tiger’s defensive line.
“We had three opportunities we didn’t quite ice, and if we get those, it’s a completely different story, but regardless, I am really proud of their efforts,” Masters said.
Tumut face the table topping Young Cherrypickers on the road in round four of the competition, and although it will be a tough task on paper, Masters said it was a matter of the next man stepping up and local talent continuing to fly the club’s colours in the face of adversity.
“Having so many young, local blokes; it says a lot for the club and what we are doing here,” Masters said.
“We are building a really good culture, where reserve grade players can step in and do a really good job for us, and I couldn’t be happier with those boys.”
In the remaining Group 9 round 3 games played over the weekend, Albury trounced Southcity 46-6 on Saturday, Temora won the inaugural Group 9 Challenge Cup match when defeating Kangaroos 30-12 on Saturday and Young ran riot when defeating Brothers 56-10 in what was a clinical win on Sunday.