A gallant defensive effort in the final 10 minutes saw the Albury-Wodonga Steamers hold on for a thrilling 36-29 victory over Tumut at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Steamers led from start to finish and looked to be heading to a comfortable win with 20 minutes to go, before Tumut struck back with two late tries.
A hat trick from James Devlin was hugely-important, but it was the work of the forwards against a strong Tumut scrum that stood up when the game was on the line.
Steamers’ coach Paul Musarra said the victory lifted the team’s spirits after losses to Wagga Ag College and Wagga City in the past fortnight.
“The things we’ve been working on paid off, coupled with the fact we were nearly full strength for the first time all year,” Musarra said.
“Tom Boyle and Andrew Donaldson were the only ones out.
“It makes a big difference and they played well.
“We tired a bit in the end and they got back into it, but to the boys credit, they stuck to their guns and defended well the last five to 10 minutes.
“Two weeks in a row we’ve come up against quite a good scrum and they knocked us around a bit, but we did well.”
Musarra added prop Tim Carroll continues to improve each week, while flanker Nick Mae, captain Richard Mannion and Rossouw Visser were also impressive.
The victory also capped off Blake Le Cornu’s 100th first grade game in style.
“Blake plays well every week and he has been great for the club,” Musarra said.
“He’s only young and he’s still got a lot of good years left in front of him, so hopefully he sticks around.
“It’s a fantastic social club and there’s a lot of good people there, so why would you ever leave?
“One of the reasons I came back wasn’t to improve my coaching or anything, it was more just to be with the club again.”
The Steamers will face their toughest task of the season away to an undefeated Leeton outfit next weekend.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it,” Musarra said.
“We’ve got some plans to take it to them, so we’ll see how we go.
“They’ve gotten bigger too, Griffith used to be the big side over the years, but now it’s probably Leeton that’s become that more physical, dominant presence right across the park.”
Musarra believes the Steamers pace out wide could be an avenue where his side could get on top, while the battle of the halves will be important.
“I’ve actually got a bit of a dilemma (in the halves) at the moment with, Josh Gemmell and Hugh Erwin battling it out for first grade, so they’ll keep pushing each other,” he added.