BULLS SNEAK HOME OVER GALLANT GREENS
By Les Muir
THE winning coach was hard to pick after Southcity escaped with a thrilling 24-18 victory over Tumbarumba at Harris Park on Sunday.
As injured Southcity captain-coach Nick Skinner lamented his team playing “’dumb” football, Tumbarumba counterpart Robbie Byatt was revelling in the tight result.
“A few silly mistakes let us down, but otherwise we were right up there,” Byatt said on Sunday.
“The boys put in a big effort today ... when we were completing our sets we were really showing the sort of team we can be.
“The problem is you just can’t make those mistakes against a team like Southcity.
“They punish you for it.”
Smiling Byatt’s admiration for 10th-placed Tumbarumba was definitely not misplaced after the duel with the best team in the Group Nine premiership.
Despite Southcity playing without Skinner and quality hooker Pani Manwatu, the Bulls were expected to run riot, but rarely seemed capable of doing it.
Southcity trailed 4-0 following a try to Tumbarumba winger Jacob Hardwick in the eighth minute, but were up 16-4 in the 33rd minute.
The lead, however, was cut to 16-10 when Greens halfback Kane Hammond scored from a grubber kick from Jordan Anderson – and subsequently booted the conversion.
Down only 16-10 at halftime, Tumbarumba made a booming start to the second half which must have had Skinner tearing out his hair.
Against the odds, the Greens snatched successive tries – both orchestrated by Kane Hammond – and hit the front 18-16 in the 62nd minute.
The halfback chipped across field for Byatt to knock down the ball for Nathan Hammond to score in the 47th minute before switching play and setting up Nemia Uluimalolo to zip over 15 minutes later.
Not to be deterred, the Bulls struck back with a crashing try to Jordan Shepherd in the 67th minute to reclaim the lead, but the Greens kept fighting.
Ultimately, Southcity held on and Tumbarumba was left to rue another near miss.
“Yes, it’s pretty pleasing but once again it’s the story of our season,” Byatt said.
“We just can’t finish it off.”
Skinner was relieved to emerge with a success that kept his team out in front of second-placed Young.
“They (Tumbarumba) were really tough today,” Skinner said.
“The effort from our boys was there, but they just played a bit dumb at times.
“So that’s something we’ll have to have a look at during the week and hopefully improve on.
“I think we just played a bit of one-out footy and sort of played into their hands.
“We’ll just reassess and go again next week against Temora.”
Skinner is unsure whether he will return from a hamstring injury against Temora at Nixon Park next Sunday, but was pleased to report Pani Manawatu will play after two weeks away.
There is no doubt Southcity need Skinner’s drive and determination and Manawatu’s non-stop work to get back to their best.
In contrast, Tumbarumba is a team coming good at the wrong end of the season.
Keeping their imports is a must for 2018 to give Byatt a chance to lift the Greens up the ladder.
Kane Hammond was superb on Sunday, while five-eighth Jordan Anderson, prop Matt Byatt and the Skinner were excellent as well.
The best for the winners was tougher to find, but young lock Luke McBeath and star prop Hayden Jeans probably get the nod.
SOUTHCITY 24 (U O’Sullivan, S Tracey, J Shepherd, H Jeans tries; K McCarthy 4 goals)d TUMBARUMBA 18 (J Hardwick, N Uluimalolo, K Hammond, N Hammond tries; K Hammond goal) at Harris Park. Scrums: 8-4. Penalties: 7-5. Referee: Scott Muir