THE Albury Wodonga Steamers franked their credentials for back-to-back premierships with a six-tries-to-two triumph over a physical Temora on Saturday.
The Tuskers came to Murrayfield looking for another scalp after beating second-placed CSU last week and failing by a point to ladder leaders Wagga Waratahs seven days earlier.
Ryan Schischka was the first to cross for the Steamers before English import Brandon Lewsey was the beneficiary of sustained tryline pressure and an elusive Richard Manion to cross out wide.
Blake Le Cornu potted both conversions, but a relentless penalty count brought Temora into the game.
Three conversions for the Tuskers got the score back to 14-9 at the break.
But the Steamers then showed glimpses of the form that saw them undefeated last year, with the forwards ramming the line on the fringe of the ruck and exposing the Tuskers when the ball was spun wide to complete the 38-19 victory.
Man of the match Ash Lefevre, in his first start at No. 8, took advantage of hooker Tom Boyle, winning two scrums against the feed for tries.
A late try in near hail and fading light restored some respect for the visitors.
Schischka said it was a real dog fight.
“They were out to knock off another scalp, they ran hard with the ball and belted us when they had the chance but we dug deep and were able to get the points,” he said.
“We have the gameplan to win these games easily but it is just the little things that are holding us back.
“It feels like we are so close to cracking the code — and when that happens, look out.”
In another bonus for the Steamers, elusive back Sam Allen returned for his first game in blue and gold for several years after completing his university studies.
It was Allen’s brilliance that put the Steamers into the grand final in 2010.
Steamers captain Nathan Bright paid tribute to Lefevre, who took his spot at lock as he moved to breakaway.
“Ash was fantastic out there today and I enjoyed being on the side of the scrum — he’s an unstoppable force,” he said.
“But the most pleasing thing about the performance was that we still have so much more to offer as a team — I’d say we were at about 60 per cent of our capacity out there today.”