KANGAROOS INTO FINALS AS THUNDER FLOP
By Les Muir
DYNAMIC Kangaroos fullback Tristan Dickson created one of the most spectacular tries of the year as the injury-riddled Wagga team clinched a place in the Group Nine finals at McDonald’s Park on Saturday.
With Dickson in absolutely supreme touch, Kangaroos gave Albury a 10-point head start before nailing the Thunder 32-24 in a last-round thriller.
The teams were locked at 18-all at halftime but Kangaroos stunned Albury with two tries in seven minutes to take an iron grip on the result.
In the process, Dickson set up Roos captain-coach Ben Jeffery for a sensational try which shattered the Thunder spirits and brought the house down.
Ultimately, the barnstorming victory earned Roos an unlikely shot at the finals, and sent Albury packing back to the border.
Combined with Brothers embarrassing 64-6 annihilation by Southcity at Harris Park on Saturday, the success guaranteed Roos finished fifth behind minor premier Southcity.
Against most predictions, Roos will now play Tumut in the elimination final at Twickenham next Saturday.
And don’t write them off says elated skipper Jeffery.
“Now we’re in there’s no pressure on us,” Jeffery said in a boisterous dressing room later
“We can go up there (Twickenham) any enjoy it,
“We’re a team with nothing to lose ... you never know.”
Virtually consigned to the also-ran bin at times during the season, Roos have pulled together in serious adversity to achieve their goal.
The team was patched up week in and week out and has almost miraculously survived the most daunting of challenges.
Not the least coming back from 16-6 down in the 17th minute when it seemed the Thunder were about to sweep them off the paddock.
Jeffery was in awe of the performance of his young and lightweight outfit.
“When it was 16-6 it could have gone either way,” he said.
“It took a huge effort.
“It just shows what type of playing group we’ve got.
“We’re not the biggest by far, but when we’re out there everyone wants to work hard and win.”
On a day of personal vindication – he was unwanted as Albury coach this year – Jeffery turned in a blinder.
But even he was outshone by Tristan Dickson, the fastest man in Group Nine.
“He’s a freak; no one else can go do that sort of thing,” Jeffery said
Dickson’s chip, chase and offload for Jeffery to score in the73rd minute gave Roos a 30-18 buffer – and they needed it.
Albury struck for the last try of the day, but it came too late to save the Thunder from the scrapheap.
Dickson’s contribution went much deeper than one critical try-assist.
On a day of triumph he also scored a blinder in the 30th minute, made more runs than Sachin Tendulkar and twice saved the day with super defence.
Clearly outweighed across the board, Roos defied the odds through the mastery of Dickson and Jeffery.
Others to shine for the winners were Lachie Cuell, Jeremy Hampton and Kade MacDonald.
Hampton especially did himself proud, handling the shift from the wing to lock with admirable esteem.
It was Hampton who ran a great line off a Jeffery pass to score in the 66th minute to push Roos ahead 24-18, leaving the stage for Dickson to make his indelible impression seven minutes later.
KANGAROOS 32 (B Jeffery, T Dickson, L Cuell, J Hampton, R Gray tries; B Jeffery 6 goals) d ALBURY 24 (L Freeman 3, D Jacobs tries; D Jacobs 4 goals) at McDonald’s Park. Scrums: 6-6. Penalties: 12-9