Albury-Wodonga Steamers | A big win at Wagga, next it’s Waratahs

THE Steamers will face perennial powerhouse Waratahs for a chance to play in the grand final after a 10-try demolition of CSU in the knockout semi-final at Wagga.

The win sets up a rematch of last year’s decider and, in another bonus for the blue and golds, it will be played at Murrayfield.

The defending premiers took a 19-5 lead into half-time before breaking the spirit of the Reddies when they piled on the points early in the second half.

For the first time this year the Steamers’ backs outscored their forward teammates, with centres Blake Le Cornu and Liam Krautz each bagging a double.

Captain Nathan Bright said every player who took to the field delivered.

“We came back from Griffith in the last round having been beaten but knowing we played a lot better than the score indicated,” he said.

“We knew we needed to repeat that effort and add a bit more and everyone stepped up.

“The forwards were dominant, the outside backs were given the room to move and they did the job.”

Bright said a meticulous preparation included studying next week’s opponents Waratahs, who were beaten by “a bit of (former Fijian international) Dan Rawaqa magic” in the final minutes.

“It didn’t matter to us who we play — both sides have strengths and weaknesses,” Bright said.

“But we planned our preparation for this game and part of that was to be watching the other semi, not just milling around watching but actually taking some lessons out of the good and bad in that game.

“Waratahs are going to be stinging when they play us — they are well-organised, well-balanced, good leadership.”

Bright rated English brothers Kel (wing) and Arran (prop) MacDougall as among their best, as well as Ash Lefevre on his return from injury.

Coach Mick Raynes said for the first time this year the Steamers had played near their full potential.

“I’d say that we were about 80 per cent as opposed to most of the games this year where we have been 20 to 50 per cent, (against) Griffith was probably 70 per cent,” he said.

Raynes said next week’s final would require a 25-man effort.

“It is not about the starting 15, we have eight interchanges and with the usual blood bins it means you use up to 25 players in any one game — we will need every one of those against Waratahs,” he said.