TIGERS SHARPEN CLAWS FOR THE FINALS
By Les Muir
GUNDAGAI captain-coach found more than a glimmer of hope as the Tigers dumped Junee 38-14 at Anzac Park on Saturday.
Regaining some confidence and momentum after an embarrassing 40-point drubbing from Southcity two weeks ago, Gundagai was under pressure at times but ultimately overwhelmed the Diesels.
Gundagai stormed on four tries in 15 minutes to lead 20-0 before Junee mounted an almost amazing revival to stay in the contest.
With successive tries to Daniel Foley (30th minute) and Liam Sweeney (33rd), Junee defied the odds to be down only 20-10 at halftime.
As the trend continued early in the second half, Junee and Gundagai traded a try apiece to leave the Tigers ahead 26-14 in the 63rd minute.
The sin-binning of second rower Simon Wilson three minutes later left Junee with 12 men – and Gundagai eventually broke the game open with the last two tries.
Reflecting on the 24-point victory, Smart certainly took heart from the performance.
“Probably the most pleasing thing was we kept control of the ruck in defence,” Smart said.
“There was no comparison to what we turned up with against Southcity a couple of weeks ago.
“That was very pleasing.”
Pledging to bring on changes for Saturday’s game, Smart was true to his words – and they had an immediate impact.
The Tigers were on fire from start – and a chip and regather try to Smart in the third minute set the tone.
By the time centre Damian Willis (6th minute), gun lock Luke Berkrey (10th) and dynamic fullback Dane O’Hehir (15th) had crossed for tries, it looked as if the Tigers would win in a landslide.
It didn’t happen, but Smart was not complaining.
“There were a few changes this week and at times we were probably a bit disjointed in attack,” he said.
“I thought we started great but when we got a little bit of fatigue into the game we went away from what was working for us
“All in all, considering where we were a couple of weeks ago I’m happy with this.”
Set to finish either second or third on the ladder, Gundagai faces Tumbarumba and Temora in the final two competition rounds before the finals.
And Smart wants the Tigers to build on what they started against Junee.
“We just need to concentrate hard for the next two games because we’re playing teams that won’t be in the semis,” he said.
“We have to worry about ourselves and to make sure we’re good to go (in the finals).”
To their credit, the Diesels were far from a pushover, and made Gundagai work overtime.
The blazing start set up the Tigers but Junee kept them scoreless for 43 minutes in the middle of the game.
Gundagai tried some refreshing new tactics – that worked – and Smart was at his best.
Likewise, Berkrey was in splendid touch, while Blake Dunn, Joel Field and Cameron Woo were better than recent weeks.
For Junee, Foley was superb, but Fale Malase and Wilson were not far behind.
GUNDAGAI 38 (J Smart 2, D O’Hehir, D Willis, J Field, C Woo, L Berkrey tries; J Smart 5 goals) d JUNEE 14 (D Foley 2, L Sweeney tries; C Hands goal) at Anzac Park. Scrums: 2-6. Penalties: 7-2. Referee: Sean Skeers