A TAREE City squad that included four members of the club’s 18s side gallantly held on to defeat Port Macquarie in the Group Three Rugby League minor semi-final at Wauchope on Saturday.
The four – five-eighth Toby De Stefano, winger Jake Lauder, centre Bruwyn Tisdell and winger/hooker Oscar Carey all made strong contributions to Taree’s victory. The Bulls will now meet the loser of the Port City/Macleay Valley major semi-final played on Sunday in the final next Saturday.
Bulls coach Gary Bridge for perhaps the first time in his life, was almost speechless at fulltime, although not for long it must be said.
“That was brilliant mate, just brilliant,'’ Bridge noted.
“Again we had players who were busted. In dunno what we’re going to come up with next week, but we’re through.
“It was one of the best games I’ve seen them put together, even though we just kept giving them yardage.
"But to play like they did in the last 10 minutes was sensational.’’
The sides trooped off at halftime locked at 10-10.
“I said to them at halftime ‘they (Port’s) got nothing.’ We got into their half twice and we scored two tries. They’re a terrible side – they scored their tries because we had 12 men on the field after Toby was sin binned.
“We deserve that – we're a much better side then they are.’’
While it was a day for young talent to shine for the Bulls, some older heads were outstanding. Halfback Todd Bridge steered the side around in a masterly display while second rower Will Clarke was Taree's best forward. Hooker Mick Henry was typically busy while Ethan Currey did a power of work. Second rower Thomas Berry played from the bench and also made his presence felt.
Taree’s last try of the game featured two young guns and a seasoned performer. Carey made a dart from dummy half and split the line. Bridge read the play perfectly and loomed up in support before sending De Stefano scampering to the line. Tisdell landed an angled conversion and the Bulls kicked 10 clear with less than 10 to go on the clock.
However, the drama was far from over. Port’s Joe Cudmore tried a short re-start and it didn’t look as though the ball had gone 10. However, Taree fullback Dean Mills scooped up the ball and started heading downfield and he was correctly penalised by referee Cory Richardson, another to star on the day. From the ensuing set Port hooker Mitch Wilbow, who terrorised the Bulls all game, scored and Cory Murphy smashed over the conversion from the sideline. With two minutes left Taree was clinging to a four point lead. The Sharks tried everything in the time remaining, but Taree held on.
The Bulls were never headed in the match, with Bridge scoring the opening try that was converted by Mills only for Cudmore to reply for the Sharks after a split by Wilbow. Murphy’s goal made it 6-6. De Stefano sent a short pass for Tisdell to work his way over for Taree’s second however the Sharks again hit back through a try to Brendan Carter just after De Stefano was sin binned following an incident with Cudmore.
Berry scored a determined try for Taree and Mills squeezed in the conversion after the resumption. The Bulls pushed 10 clear when Bridge shot through a gap close to the line although Mills was astray with the goal attempt, giving the Taree a 10 point cushion.
From there the Sharks played catch-up, but every time they reduced the margin, the Bulls would conjure up another try and as their coach said, they deserved their win.
Port Macquarie won the reserve grade over Macleay Valley while Wauchope upset Old Bar in the under 18s.
Forster-Tuncurry prevailed over Wauchope in the women’s league tag, while the gate was $4500.