WAGGA teenage Mitch Bennett would have been hard pressed to pick a better time to make his first grade debut for Southcity.
A week out from the Group Nine finals, Bennett, 18, got his call-up to the top team as the Bulls ravaged Tumbarumba by 80 points at Harris Park on Saturday.
And to cap a most memorable initial first grade game, the young back rower burst over for a try in the 65th minute before Southcity wrapped up their 86-6 slaughter.
Bennett’s try was among 15 tries blasted on by the Bulls on another day of hardship and heartache for the battling Greens.
After struggling all year, Tumbarumba’s winless season finally ended with a landslide loss which again will cast a cloud of concern over the hills club.
In contrast to Tumbarumba’s sorry plight, Southcity had more to celebrate than Mitch Bennett’s dream arrival on the first grade stage.
As injured Southcity captain-coach Nick Skinner said later, the victory was a perfect way for team to march into the Group Nine finals.
“This is what we’ve been playing all year for,” Skinner said.
“Now we’re into the finals and it all starts again.”
For Southcity, Saturday’s romp consolidated third position on the Group Nine table and set up a qualifying final showdown with Junee at Laurie Daley Oval next Sunday.
Skinner said the Bulls would be intent on carrying their winning momentum into the dice with the Diesels.
“We just need to keep playing with confidence,” he said.
Coming off a fumbling 32-30 loss to Cootamundra a week earlier, Southcity found some cohesion to treat Tumbarumba to their worst result of the season.
Thrashed 86-18 by Gundagai on May 17, the Greens had little answer to the power of Bulls pack or the slick work of halves Nathan Rose and Kyle McCarthy.
Rose scored three tries and had a key hand in three others, while McCarthy only got one try, but created three others.
Dynamic Southcity fullback Jack Lyons also a field day, scoring three tries including an absolute screamer off a Jaye Pukepuke pass in the 67th minute.
Despite all the try-scoring heroics, Skinner saved his sincerest words for Bennett and fellow first grade rookies, Josh Cochrane and Djarin King.
“I really want to thank them for stepping up today,” Skinner said.
“They all did themselves proud.”
Needing to make a statement before the finals, Southcity put on a show in the first half, blitzing eight tries to lead 48-0 at half-time.
The spell was broken when Kane Hammond scored a solo try for Tumbarumba in the 45th minute, but the Bulls quickly responded and added another seven tries before the end.
Props Brent Snowden and Pukepuke certainly set a great foundation, while Rose showed more than a glimmer of his best form in the rout.
Amid the carnage, Tumbarumba won the admiration of many, including Southcity stalwart Ian Lloyd.
“You have to admire them (the players),” Lloyd said.
“They keep turning up every week and didn’t back off for one second today.”
SOUTHCITY 86 (J Lyons 3, N Rose 3, J Hodge 2, B Snowden 2, P Manawatu 2, V Paul, K McCarthy, M Bennett tries; K McCarthy 13 goals) d TUMBARUMBA 6 (K Hammond try; K Hammond goal) at Harris Park. Scrums: 9-8 Penalties: 7-3. Referee: Max Biles
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