It was ‘fourth time a charm’ for the Deni Drovers, finally overcoming rival Hay in round 13 of the Southern Inland Rugby Union McMullen Cup season on Saturday.
In front of a bumper home crowd for their Old Boys and Sponsor’s Day at Rotary Park, the Drovers put forward one of their best displays of the season to run away with a 26-12 win.
The victory was the sixth win of the Drovers’ season, handing the Cutters their second loss of the year with just one round remaining before finals.
Fill-in Drovers coach Robin Richardson, who filled the role due to Joe Gogarty having to referee the clash, said the win was crucial for his side’s confidence.
‘‘We can now head into finals knowing we can beat Hay,’’ he said.
‘‘While we’ve been in every contest against them this year, we just haven’t been able to overcome them until today (Saturday).
‘‘It feels good to finally pick up a win after three previous attempts and it couldn’t have come at a better time.’’
Good ball control and solid work by the Drovers’ big forward pack had the Cutters on the back foot early, and it wasn’t long before the Drovers posted first points of the day.
The home side showed their patience, working the ball wide to Veni Mahe to cross within the first 10 minutes to hand the Drovers a 5-0 lead.
Deni continued to put the heat on the Cutters, dominating possession with the ball spending the majority of the game in the home side’s attacking half.
The Drovers were rewarded for their efforts right at the half-time whistle, with five-eighth Dee Feagai crossing the line under the uprights to score. Feagai converted his own work to extend the lead to 12-0 at half-time.
The home side’s defence was put to the test early in the second half, with the Cutters replicating the work of the Drovers from the opening stanza.
Missed tackles proved costly for the Drovers however, with John Porter scoring after a 40m run and with Mosese Koroi converting, the scores were at 12-7 in favour of the home side.
Needing a reply, it was winger Staci Richardson who answered with a 40m run down the wing, followed by a grubber kick that was collected by Feagai who placed the ball under the posts, in what was the play of the day.
Feagai extended the margin with a successful conversion, with the Drovers leading 19-7.
The Drovers again hit the scoreboard soon after, with Richardson cutting through the defence to run 20m for another try under the uprights to seal the victory, followed by a successful conversion from Feagai.
Hay continued to fight on in the dying stages of the game, with flanker Tom Lilburne scoring following a sneaky dart to the line off the side of a maul.
With the conversion attempt bouncing off the post, the full-time whistle soon followed with scores at 26-12.
‘‘We really defended well, especially in the second half,’’ Robin Richardson said.
‘‘The passion was there and you could tell from everyone’s reaction that this win meant a lot.
‘‘Throughout the season when we have got ahead (on the scoreboard) we’ve sat back and let teams back in the game.
‘‘But the boys stamped their authority (against Hay on Saturday) and made sure they didn’t let the game slip.
‘‘We kicked and chased well all game and once we worked the ball wide we showed what we’re capable of.
‘‘The forwards did a great job in both defence and attack with Chris TePoka leading from the front and Erasmus Bothma having great drives down the field.
‘‘If we can play like that against sides during finals then who knows what can happen.’’
Votes from the game went to Feagai (three), Bothma (two) and Kayde Richardson (one), while players’ player was awarded to TePoka.
The Drovers will travel to Albury to face the CSU Reddies for the final round of the home and away season on Saturday.