BLUES STORM HOME TO OUST YOUNG
By Les Muir
TUMUT coach Jarrad Teka handed the team a massive compliment after the Blues swamped Young in the minor semi-final at Alfred Oval on Saturday.
After trailing for more than three quarters of the sudden-death game, Tumut snatched three late tries to bury Young 26-16.
The storming victory has kept Tumut in the battle for the Group Nine title, but Young is now on the scrapheap – and still waiting to break their 26-year premiership drought.
Young captain-coach James Woolford said later the team was “heartbroken” by the loss.
“My blokes are hurting big time ... I’m hurting big time,” Woolford said.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken. My boys are heartbroken.”
Young was on the wrong side of a 9-2 penalty count from referee Jake White, but still led 12-4 at halftime and 16-10 midway through the second half.
Ultimately, Tumut needed a rapid-fire finish to shatter Young’s hopes of staying alive for at least another week.
Saving their best for last, the Blues got level when impressive lock Jacob McGrath burst over for a try in the 69th minute and hooker Jacob Toppin converted.
With a spot in the preliminary final next Sunday in the balance, Tumut only hit the front for the first time after Toppin scored a controversial try in the 74th minute.
The drama unfolded as Tumut prop Tamati Ioane was tackled by several defenders metres from the Young line and the ball squirted loose – allowing Topping to swoop for the defining try.
Toppin’s gift was greeted with howls from the Young faithful, but referee White and touch judge Ben Whitby subsequently revealed the ball was “raked”
Amid the aftermath, triumphant Teka gave Tumut a glowing tribute, putting them on the same lofty plain as the Blues team with which he won the grand final in 2008.
“They’re very similar,” Teka said.
“The culture and the bond between the boys are very similar to that (2008) team.
“We’ve got a great bunch of blokes and everyone gets along ... we’re all very close mates.
“It’s a good feeling to have that back again.”
For Teka, Tumut’s flashing victory on Saturday was one to absolutely savour.
“The team showed a lot of character,” he said.
“We had to work hard for it and I’m so proud of the boys.
“The character they showed was very pleasing – it was very emotional out there at the end.”
Teke also paid homage to Woolford’s vanquished outfit.
“Young stepped up and put a lot into today ... and full credit to them,” Teka said.
“They were tough to beat and we faced adversity in enemy territory.
“Last week we won like world beaters and this week we had to grind it out.”
Coming off a rollicking 58-12 demolition of Kangaroos, Tumut found Young a much more formidable hurdle.
Rebounding from their horror 48-4 drubbing from Gundagai, Young refused to be out-muscled by the Blues – and were generally on top for the first half.
Woolford cracked Tumut with a diving try from dummy half in the sixth minute and Warren Aiken cleverly put Tom Bush over for Young’s second try in the 22nd minute.
Even without gun halfback Raymond Talimalie on the field – he was on the bench for the opening 26 minutes – Young were up 12-4.
And it could have been more but Tui Samoa was denied a try in the 36th minute because team-mate Aaron Slater was penalised for a silly infringement.
The turmoil was heightened when Woolford was sin-binned in the 37th minute.
Significantly, Ioane scored his try in the 46th minute with Woolford off the paddock.
In the end Young still were right in the hunt until Toppin picked up the easiest try of his career.
As much as he was upset at the penalty count, Woolford was philosophical.
“We had our chances,” he said.
“Yes, a couple of calls didn’t go our way and it wasn’t to be our day.
“The game of footy was there to win.”
TUMUT 26 (A Pearce 2, J Toppin, JMcGrath, T Ioane tries; J Toppin 3 goals) d YOUNG 16 (T Bush, J Woolford, H Cowled tries; J Corcoran 2 goals) at Alfred Oval. Scrums: 4-9. Penalties: 9-2. Gate: $6650. Referee: Jake White (7½)
Reserve grade: Albury 22 d Brothers 18
Weissel Cup: Kangaroos 34 d Young 4
Leaguetag: Brothers 20 d Cootamundra 4
Sullivan Cup: Young 22 d Cootamundra 6