STAYING in the queue for the Group Nine finals was tougher than expected as Temora overwhelmed Tumut at Twickenham on Saturday.
With dynamic centre Josh Bryant running riot, Temora gave Tumut a 10-point head start before the Dragons clinched a 30-16 victory.
Ending a week of coaching drama on a promising note, the Blues produced one of their bravest and most committed efforts of the season.
After parting company with captain-coach Arana Taumata on Thursday, Tumut regrouped in grand and resolute style to give Temora a football fright.
Tumut snatched two tries in the opening seven minutes to lead 10-0 before falling behind 16-10 at half-time, only to get back on level terms minutes into the second half.
Playing with grit and resolve under caretaker coaches Jason Back and Dan Roddy, the Blues locked up the game 16-all as ferocious Joseph Ioane-Toetu steamed over for a try in the 43rd minute and Jacob Toppin converted.
Ultimately, however, Temora blasted on the last three tries to sweep away with the decisive result.
As Temora captain-coach Michael Henderson later savoured a success that kept the Dragons in the line for a possible spot in the semi-finals in August, he also handed the Blues a deserved accolade.
“They (Tumut) came at us hard,” Henderson said later.
“They really responded to the adversity with their coach.
“It’s a credit to us that we came back and won the game.”
Little wonder Henderson marked the six tries to three tries triumph as significantly important for the team.
“There’s going to be five or six teams in the running for two or three places (in the finals),” Henderson said.
“There’s going to be a lot of desperation games from now on in.”
Although playing without front row stalwart Scott Matthews – he’s out for a month at least with a knee injury – Temora was on the top of its form on Saturday, but still found the Blues a serious obstacle.
Inspired by the commanding efforts of Back and Ioane-Toetu, Tumut made Temora work overtime for the valuable victory.
Ioane-Toetu gave the Blues a great platform with a bulldozing try in the fourth minute before leading the charge for centre Jonathon McNamara to score minutes later.
Down 10-0, Temora came storming back with successive tries to Bryant (17th minute, 34th) and Taylor Krause (36th) to lead 16-10 by half-time.
Stung again by another Ioane-Toetu try in the 43rd minute, the Dragons went into overdrive, finishing with three unanswered tries to power away at the end.
In a performance that got him labelled a “game-breaker” by Henderson, Bryant grabbed two more tries, including a ripper in the 56th minute when he showed amazing fingertip control.
While Bryant was superb, Henderson and playmakers Daniel Fitzhenry and Clinton Green were not far behind.
In fact, Fitzhenry was sensational – as good as he has ever been in the region.
Likewise, Jermaine Packer turned in his best display of the year for Temora, but second rower Liam Martin was also impressive.
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