Tumut High School’s under 14 rugby league team bowed out of the state-wide Buckley Shield competition on Tuesday at the quarter-final stage, beaten 28-20 by a powerful Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College outfit.
Tumut jumped out of the blocks with two early tries to Malik Aitken in rainy conditions at Twickenham.
The local team was well on top in the opening stages, making plenty of metres with ball in hand and throwing themselves into their defensive workload against some bigger opponents.
But midway through the half possession swung the way of the Central Coast school and the tide turned.
Giant prop Simon Pati got the visitors on the scoreboard and then their five-eighth Harry Channells dummied and stepped his way across.
Tumut was struggling to get their hands on the football and Tuggerah crossed for a third time on the back of some skilful passing in the wet to forge a handy 16-8 halftime lead.
Tumut’s hopes of a second half comeback were dealt a blow when Tuggerah Lakes centre Ryan Bullmar showed nice anticipation to haul in an intercept and race away to score under the posts untouched.
At 22-6, Tumut had a mountain to climb, but they showed no sign of throwing in the towel.
Wholehearted fullback Hunter Lee scooted over midway through the half to keep his team in the hunt at 22-14 and his teammates lifted on the back of that score.
Tuggerah, however, was able absorb some pressure and then wrest back control when Jed Dunsmore surged onto a short pass to touch down under the black dot.
With the clock counting down, Tumut continued to push hard and deservedly landed the final try of the game when lock Ethan Gilchrist collected a cross-field kick and found his way to the tryline.
In a high-quality game of schoolboys football featuring some bone-jarring defence, Tuggerah’s big men Pati and Josh Shaw led the charge for the victors, as did second rower Levi Wilton.
Tumut’s best included Gilchrist, Lee and prop Corey Herrington, who threw themselves into the fray in committed fashion against an opponent with a clear size advantage.
Tuggerah coach Dean Holtom was gracious in victory, praising Tumut’s performance and the town’s hospitality.
“They’re definitely the toughest team we’ve come up against,” Mr Holtom said of the Tumut boys.
“I was particularly impressed with their defence.”
Tuggerah now progresses to the semi-final stage of the competition, while Tumut bows out with the knowledge that they rank among the best teams in NSW.