TIGERS NOT IN TROUBLE: SMART
By Les Muir
STAYING calm and collected, Gundagai captain-coach James Smart had no concerns after the Tigers struggled past Kangaroos 24-10 at Anzac Park on Saturday.
Just a week before a top-of-the-table showdown with Southcity at Harris Park, Gundagai made tough work of disposing of eighth-placed Kangaroos.
Up an unconvincing 14-4 at halftime, Gundagai was stung by a fortuitous Kangaroos try to Kade MacDonald in the 57th minute before two late strikes of their own got them safely home.
Smart and Chris Rose put dynamic fullback Dane O’Hehir over for a superb try in the 68th minute and 10 minutes later winger Dylan Cole smashed his way cross to seal the verdict.
Despite the relatively close shave with the battling Wagga team, Smart was definitely showing no signs of anxiety.
In fact, the Tigers skipper was clearly content his team had rebounded from the horror 44-16 caning from Young a week ago.
“It was better than last week,” Smart said.
“We played a lot better, but it was just a very, very slow game of footy.
“It was hard to get any momentum going.”
Heading into the blockbuster against the Bulls, and only five weeks out from the finals, Smart is adamant Gundagai are not a team searching for a richer vein of form.
“I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be turned around,” Smart said.
‘We’re in a good position.
“It’s just about getting our momentum at the right time ... I don’t want us setting the world on fire just yet.
“There’s a long way to go.”
As Smart settles in for the long haul, Kangaroos remain a team with a distinct personality problem.
Hardly for the first time this year, Roos considerable spirit but never appeared likely to topple the Tigers.
Gundagai had the lions’ share of possession and field-possession in the first half, but gritty Roos defence kept them in the scrap.
Smart was full of admiration for the losers.
“They (Kangaroos) played pretty simple footy ... I suppose they had to in the conditions,” he said.
“They’ve got some guys in there like Troy Barby and Zac Graham that just keep working.
“And obviously Ben Jeffery and Tristan (Dickson) are very dangerous.”
Barby and Graham racked up 30-plus tackles each to help keep the Tigers out for long stretches, while Jeffery orchestrated Roos two tries with clever kicks.
Significantly, Dickson was dropped a metre short by O’Hehir when it seemed he must score a try in the seventh minute and was later spelled for 15 minutes when he suffered an ankle problem.
Although the Gundagai forwards ultimately wore down Roos, it was impossible not to focus on Smart as the tearaway star for the Tigers.
Smart’s defence bordered on unbreakable and he also kicked astutely and scheme well when it was needed.
Likewise, luck Luke Berkrey was in barnstorming touch, but O’Hehir was also a standout as usual.
GUNDAGAI 24(D O’Hehir 2, D Cole, N Fotu, J Field tries; J Smart 2 goals) d KANGAROOS 10 (J Lyons, K MacDonald tries; B Jeffery goal) at Anzac Park. Scrums: 7-9. Penalties: 7-7.