Royal overcame the absence of a host of players to grind out a gritty 18-4 win over Star in the Bristow-Madigan Plate on Friday night.
In the play-off for third against fourth, the Red Devils could only muster only 11 players, forcing those who did turn out into long minutes in the fast-paced nine’s format.
Star looked the goods early on, forcing their way over through Coen McKenzie, but couldn’t maintain that standard for the remainder of the match.
Royal capitalised on a mistake when big Tom Murdoch swooped on a loose ball and set a weaving Coen Potter trybound.
Both teams produced some important stops in defence defending their tryline – no easy task in nines football – and at halftime the two teams had conceded only a try apiece, with a Chris Bell conversion giving the Devils a 6-4 advantage.
Royal enjoyed a slice of luck when a Steve Gill grubber was muffed by Star, allowing Gill to pounce for a 10-4 lead.
Then Bell broke the game open with a sensational individual try.
He collected a mid-field bomb and then showed pace and a timely don’t argue to hold the closiing Star cover at bay and touch down in the corner.
At 14-4 down, Star showed some urgency but couldn’t quite string their passes together, and in the end Ben McDonald ensured Royal finished on a high note with a determined try.
Murdoch and Bell were terrific in a team of stars for Royal, while Star’s Jared Baker was probably the most dangerous player on the field.
Royal captain later revealed a pre-game pep talk from trainer David “Paddy” Bristow helped give the side motivation for the win.
The plate is named in memory of Paddy father, Michael Bristow, and league historian John Madigan, two good mates who played significant roles in Tumut rugby league spanning decades.
The Bristows’ and Madigans’ role in local league continues today, and Barry Madigan, president of the Old Boys, which organises the Pub 9s, was on hand with Paddy to present the plate to the winners.