BERKREY'S RETURN GOES TO SCRIPT – ALMOST
By Les Muir
LUKE Berkrey got the homecoming he wanted, but Cootamundra still had the last laugh at Les Boyd Oval on Saturday.
Playing against Cootamundra for the first time in his career, Berkrey savoured a near-perfect return to town as Gundagai belted the Bulldogs 76-12.
Capping a memorable day, barnstorming Berkrey scored a runaway try off a gem of pass from skipper James Smart to open the second half – only to be foiled by his former club.
In a light-hearted move, the ground announcer credited Berkrey’s try to team-mate Blake Dunn, who happily responded with a wave to the crowd.
Amid the massive carnage of Gundagai’s 14 try demolition, Berkrey was happy to be a part of the joke.
“It was fine,” Berkrey said later.
“The boys got a good laugh out of it.”
And for Berkrey, the threat of a hot reception from his old team-mates never got warm.
“There wasn’t a problem,” he said.
“It was good it tough game.
“They (Cootamundra) they started extremely well but our class got them in the end.”
Following up their gutsy effort against Southcity a week earlier, Cootamundra were more than a march for Gundagai in the opening 20 minutes.
Defying the odds, Bulldogs hooker Pat Cameron snatched the first try in the fifth minute as the team jumped ahead 6-0.
True to script, Berkrey stepped up to set up a try for skipper James Smart five minutes later – and the teams were back on level terms.
Not to be denied, Cootamundra struck again with a solo try to halfback James Smith in the 13th to be back in front 12-6.
But when Blake Dunn sent Gundagai fullback Dane O’Hehir sailing through a yawning gap for a try in the 16th minute it was the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs.
Down 12-10 after O’Hehir’s strike, the Tigers blasted on another three tries in seven minutes in finish the first half up 26-12.
The less said about the second half is probably the better.
Running short on energy, Cootamundra was swamped by a tsunami of nine Gundagai tries.
Berkrey got things started when he surged over in the 47th minute and the Tigers just kept finding the try-line.
In the end, it was almost like touch football as Gundagai scoring machines Damian Willis and O’Hehir each finished three tries each and Tyron Gorman and Noa Fotu grabbed two each as well.
Ultimately, the Tigers scored 66 unanswered points in the last 64 minutes, but Berkrey said the team was definitely not keeping score
“In the end we didn’t let in any tries after the opening 20 minutes, and defence was one of the big things we wanted to fix up,” he said.
“We had some good attack too and we finished off all right.
“You’ve got to be pleased when that happens.”
Adding injury to insult for Cootamundra, crafty Aaron Byrne suffered a suspected serious ankle injury in the 66thminute and his immediate future is clouded.
The Tigers had no shortage of stars, but Smart and Blake Dunn were cut above the rest, while Pat Cameron and James Smith were outstanding for the losers.
GUNDAGAI 76 (D O’Hehir 3, D Willis 3, T Gorman 2, N Fotu 2, D Cole, J Smart, C Woo, L Berkrey tries; J Smart 10 goals) d COOTAMUNDRA 12 (J Smith, P Cameron tries; M Forsyth 2 goals) at Les Boyd Oval. Scrums: 9-2. Penalties: 6-3. Referee: Shane Bartlett
ALBURY 30 (D Jacobs 2, D Johnson 2, T King, B Meehan tries; D Jacobs 3 goals) d TUMBARUMBA 18 (K Hammond 2, N, Tema, K Nadaro tries; K Hammond goal) at Greenfield Park