ALBURY Thunder went within a whisker of taking its winning ways to another code on Saturday.
The rugby league Group 9 premier took up the challenge of the Rapidfire 10s rugby challenge as a precursor to the Super Rugby trial between the Waratahs and Rebels at the Albury Sportsground.
The Thunder, playing many of its back-to-back premiership stars, was undefeated in the round robin games and led 10-0 at half-time in the final.
A conversion by Ben Jeffery failed to go over before the siren for the change of ends and denied the league boys a 12-0 lead.
But in the second half a resurgent Box Hill, also undefeated in the preliminaries, drew level with 3½ minutes to play.
Neither side could break the deadlock in the 40-degree mid-afternoon sun; Box Hill was eventually declared the winner on a countback having scored 16 tries to 14.
Thunder coach Josh Cale said it was a great hitout despite the heat.
“We were always going to have a go — it’s the culture at the club, being competitive, wanting to win,” he said.
“It’s disappointing to lose on a countback but it was a great day put on by the rugby boys and we got what we wanted out of it.
“It was hot and that means I’ll probably make Tuesday night’s session a pretty light one.
“But after that it will be two weeks of hard work and then re-focus on the West Wyalong knockout as our next big test.”
The Steamers fell just short of what would have been a cross-town, cross-code grudge match in the final.
Last year’s undefeated Southern Riverina rugby champions won two of their three pool matches, losing only to eventual winners Box Hill 24-10.
Stand-in skipper Ryan Schischka was sporting the scars of some studs across the face but was happy with the effort.
“We lost our structure in the second game against Box Hill but in the final pool game, after a bit of a rest between games, we came out with more intensity and purpose,” he said.
“It was great to finish that way — it gives us some solid building blocks for the future.
“We probably didn’t carry the fitness or the numbers into the competition compared to some of the other sides and that told in the end.
“February is pretty early in the season for us so we will take the positives out of that and go back to training.”