A TRY to winger Ruben Tripp just before halftime proved pivotal in Wauchope's hard earned 28-18 win over Wingham in the Group Three Rugby League game played in freezing conditions at Wingham.
The loss is Wingham's third on the trot and the Tigers have now slumped from outright third to fourth after being overhauled by Old Bar. Wauchope maintains second spot, a point shy of Macleay Valley.
The Blues were hanging onto a 14-12 lead just before halftime when player-of-the-match Rob Trembath slipped a great pass to Country representative centre Beau White. He raced clear of the defence before positioning Tripp, who did the rest. The try gave Wauchope a four point cushion going into the break.
It was a match Wingham could have won. The Tigers fought back to get within two points of Wauchope in the second half, however, the Blues finished the stronger, running in two tries.
Defensive lapses and an ineffective kicking game proved to be Wingham's downfall. Too often they went high on Trembath and he's too smart for that. In his most dominant performance of the season, Trembath powered through tackles despite being troubled by a heavily strapped thigh. He had plenty of support from second rower Carlos Kohu-Martin and centre White, who was also a handful for the defence.
Centre Tim Watson scored two good tries for the Tigers and was their best while slightly built wingers Aaron Bakewell and Blake Sky were safe. New hooker Tyne Owen was busy and creative from dummy half.
Wingham had a great start with a kick from halfback Mitch Steel eluding the chasers and ended up with lock Ricky Tobi who scored for the home side. Michael Rees slotted a conversion.
However, Trembath was starting to trouble the defence and the Blues were gaining momentum. Eventually White worked a short blindside to position Tripp, who was over in the corner for an unconverted try. The Blues shot ahead when Kohu-Martin took a pass close to the line and powered over through non-existent defence. Sam Watts added the conversion and it was 10-6.
However, Watson took a short pass and charged through tackles to give Wingham the lead with the goal to Rees. Wauchope regained initiative when Kurt Doherty scored from close range and then surged further ahead with Tripp's second as the halftime siren sounded.
Watson's second try and the conversion to Rees made it 20-18 and the Tigers looked to be gaining the ascendancy. But just when an upset looked likely Wingham's defence started to fall away and mistakes crept into the game in their territory. The Blues cashed in with a second try to Kohu-Martin while a late try to Beau Kettle sealed the deal.