WARATAHS breathed fresh air into the Southern Inland competition despite falling to Albury at Conolly Rugby Complex on Saturday.
The Steamers held on for a 32-23 win but the Wagga outfit showed the premiership battle is far from a one-way street.
Albury only scored once in the second half as Waratahs attempted to comeback from a 25-6 half-time deficit.
The Wagga club was on the wrong end of the penalty count and had to play a man down for 20 minutes after Tim Corcoran and Mick Gooden were given marching orders in either half.
Albury coach Mick Raynes thought the game was just what his side needed.
“It’s exactly the game we wanted,” Raynes said. “They delivered exactly what you want them to do and will go deep into the finals with a forward pack like that.
“They played 20 minutes with a man short so that puts them right under the pump and it showed a few little areas that we need to work on.”
Albury has only lost once this season, to Leeton without their representative stars, and have been dominating their opponents since the competition split.
Coming off dominant wins over Ag College and Griffith, the Steamers had a much bigger test against the fifth-placed Tahs.
Waratahs opened the scoring through the boot of Euan Bonner, when he slotted an early penalty goal before Albury hit back when James Olds found Sam Allen to score in the corner.
Bonner put the Waratahs back in front with another penalty before Arran MacDougall converted a Albury break to lead 12-6.
Corcoran was then dismissed for a shoulder charge on Lex Botha and when Olds kicked two penalties and Botha scored a stunning try, the Steamers were on a roll before half-time.
After the break, Steve Tracey crossed out wide to score Waratahs first try before Bonner put his team within seven points when he scored from close range under the posts.
After Gooden was given his marching orders, after repeated infringements by the team, Ash Leferve was able to extend Albury’s lead when he scored off a scrum.
Still a man down, Waratahs hit back when Joe Mullany scored from a rolling maul to reduce the margin to nine before Dave Armstrong went close to scoring but was ruled to be held up.
Waratahs scrambled late to try and get breach the Albury defence again but couldn’t reel in the big start.
ALBURY 33 (A MacDougall, A Leferve, S Allen, L Botha tries; J Olds 2 cons, 2 pens, B Le Cornu con) d WARATAHS 23 (J Mullany, E Bonner, S Tracey tries; E Bonner con, 2 pens)
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