WITH the cards falling perfectly, Gundagai delivered the last rites to Temora’s horror season with an emphatic 50-8 win at Anzac Park on Sunday.
In a dream finish to the premiership rounds, Gundagai thrashed Temora by 10 tries to two to sink the Dragons.
Along the way, the Tigers leapfrogged Young on the ladder to earn a home qualifying final against the Cherrypickers at Anzac Park next Sunday.
Combined with Young’s surprise 34-26 loss to Tumut at Alfred Oval on Sunday, Gundagai’s success against the ravaged Dragons was enough to push the Tigers to second spot on the table, with the Cherrypickers dropping to third.
Despite Tumut doing Gundagai a huge favour, Tigers captain-coach James Smart could barely raise a grin following his team’s victory.
On a day when Gundagai continued Temora’s dreadful decline, Smart was dealing with more pressing problems.
Already without James Luff and Vincent Brown for the finals series, Gundagai has also lost front rower Trent Skeers and could be missing Blake Dunn as well.
Showing real concern, Smart said Skeers had a bulging disc in his back and was out for the season.
“It’s not too good (for Skeers), and Blake Dunn I don’t know,” Smart said.
“He’s got a hamstring (problem) and I’m not sure.”
For Smart, the emerging injury crisis definitely took the gloss off Gundagai’s rampaging triumph.
The Tigers scored at virtually a point a minute to nab four tries and lead 22-0 before sailing to a 26-4 advantage at halftime.
Maintaining his last-season surge of glittering form, Smart was instrumental in the Tigers breaking away from the Dragons.
Showing superb footwork Smart stepped his way over for a solo try in the 20th minute but also threw the final pass for a tries to Damian Willis (10th) and Dane O’Hehir (27th) and had a key hand in Dylan Cole’s try in the third minute.
All up it was a classic James Smart five-star performance.
For Smart, the display was certain to strengthen his claims for the coveted Weissel Medal.
Likewise, lock Hayden Philp was clearly Temora’s outstanding player and rivalled the best for the winners.
Philp and Smart will be prime contenders for the Weissel Medal, but Gundagai forward Luke Berkrey is also in contention despite copping 10 minutes in the sin-bin on Sunday for fighting.
Despite the injury worries,Smart is optimistic about the finals campaign.
“We’re going OK,” he said.
“It’s now about having fresh bodies on the paddock.”
With Gundagai having the game safely in the bag, the second half was hardly inspiring, but Smart still was in commanding touch.
To end a miserable year for Temora, Smart sprinted 35 metres for a wonderful try with only seconds left on the clock.
Aside from Smart, prop Joel Field was excellent along with Willis, O’Hehir and Keiran Pearce.