ALBURY Thunder produced a near-faultless performance to demoralise Southcity 34-0 in Group 9 rugby league’s major semi-final at Greenfield Park yesterday.
After soaking up enormous pressure from the Bulls in the opening 25 minutes, the reigning premier broke the shackles through a smart Mark Walsham try from dummy half and went on to record their best win of the season.
The win wasn’t without it share of drama after Thunder coach Josh Cale was forced to withdraw from the selected side after injuring his calf in the warm-up.
Cale was delighted with the performance after many questioned his team’s lack of match fitness — it last played three weeks ago.
“You couldn’t have predicted that after two weeks off,” Cale said.
“We worked as hard as we could during the break and the result is a credit to the boys.
“I thought our maturity and discipline was really good and the young blokes, in particular, really stood up.
“Some people forget we are a pretty young team and I thought those blokes led the way today.
“We didn’t have any passengers out there.”
Walsham’s try in the 29th minute sparked Albury into action and when Tim Hurst was sin-binned minutes later for a professional foul, the Bulls were officially in trouble.
Jeffery took the score to 8-0 from the resulting penalty but, even then, nobody in the crowd expected the devastating 40 minutes that was to follow.
Jake Grace extended the lead to 14-0 in the 50th minute, soon after a Mitch Seaton intercept, before giant winger Daniel Jacobs enjoyed the best 16 minutes of his career.
Jacobs made the most of some brilliant play from Dion Belford-Laulu and Willie Heta to run in tries in the 56th, 65th and 71st minutes to ensure he finished with the honours against Bulls’ star Shaun Ainscough.
Belford-Laulu was rewarded late for a strong match by crossing the line with three minutes to play to complete the whitewash.
As usual, forwards Mitch Davis, Lou Goodwin and Andrew Cowhan were outstanding, while Jon Huggett and Jacobs led the young brigade with polished, professional performances.
Cale has no doubt Southcity will bounce back against Gundagai in next weekend’s preliminary final.
“Good sides come back and Southcity is a very good side,” he said.
“They have a tough one against Gundagai, though. It won’t be easy.”
Thunder came through the clash without any injuries while Southcity’s Peter Maybury appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury in the second half.