ALBURY Thunder’s shot at a third successive Group 9 rugby league premiership took a major hit when it went down to Southcity 40-38 at Greenfield Park yesterday.
In front of a record home and away crowd, Bulls’ star Will Merritt scored in the final minute to level the scores before Nathan Rose cooly converted from straight in front after the final bell.
It was Albury’s first loss at the ground since the 2011 finals series.
Southcity must now only defeat a struggling Tumbarumba in this weekend’s final round to secure the minor premiership and a spell in the first week of the finals.
Albury coach Josh Cale said his team paid the price for lapses in concentration.
“We had our chances to win it but we couldn’t close it out,” Cale said.
“In saying that, no side should win when they let in 38 or 40 points.
“That’s the most disappointing thing.
“It probably hurts more than the loss itself as we pride ourselves on def-ence.
“I thought we were really ordinary around the edges.
“We knew they that’s where they were coming but we didn’t do anything about it.”
In a match that was played in bursts, both teams had periods of domination with Albury leading 18-6 after 30 minutes before Southcity slammed on three tries in five minutes to grab an unlikely 24-18 lead at half-time.
Young Bulls’ winger Jack Lyons was sensational while Merritt and coach Daniel Fitzhenry were also prominent in turning the match on its head.
Thunder hit back hard after the break with Ben Jeffery and Willie Heta at their creative best and Jake Grace doing everything in his power to cover for absent captain Lou Goodwin.
Albury looked home when it led 38-30 at the 65-minute-mark after Jeffery ran the length of the ground to score following a perfectly weighted Heta kick from a scrum.
But Southcity had other ideas with Ned Mortimer bulldozing his way over the line in the 70th minute and Merritt capitalising on some slack defence in the dying seconds to clinch a win.
Thunder lost Mitch Davis with an ankle injury only five minutes before full-time.