VICTORY had a sour taste for Southcity captain-coach Nick Skinner after the Bulls ditched Young from the Group Nine finals on Saturday.
In a shattering start to the minor semi-final at Equex Centre, Skinner dislocated his knee cap in a collision with the Young defence in the fifth minute of the game.
Concerned team-mates hovered as Skinner as he lay clutching at his leg before trainers carried him from the ground on a stretcher.
Staunchly refusing to leave the venue, Skinner was only transported to Wagga Base Hospital by ambulance well after the Bulls had pulled off a stunning comeback success.
Down 16-0 at half-time, Southcity scored five tries in the second half to sweep to a 24-16 triumph.
Skinner’s injury, which seems certain to rule him out of the preliminary final on Sunday at the very least, definitely cast a cloud over the Bulls win.
However, stand-in skipper Kyle McCarthy said the team had used Skinner’s injury as inspiration to launch their recovery.
Across the divide, Young captain-coach Luke Branighan could offer no excuse for the Cherrypickers capitulation.
“I was quietly confident this week, and thought we were almost right when we led 16-0 at half-time,” Branighan said on Saturday.
“It was a massive effort (by Souhcity) after they lost Nick Skinner.”
Branighan said the Cherrypickers were “punished” for mistakes in the second half.
“In the end it was disappointing,” he said.
“We were just too inconsistent.
“That’s been our big problem this year.”
For Branighan, Saturday’s loss was the bitter finale to his four-year reign as coach.
The ex-NRL star is adamant, however, he is yet to complete a deal with another club, but expects his future to be settled in the comings days.
“I haven’t signed anything yet,” he said.
“I’ve only been worrying about this game.”
It is believed Branighan will ink a deal with Group 10 clubs Cowra, with explosive lock Matt Wakefield also a chance of joining the Magpies.
Branighan was severely restricted by a calf muscle injury on Saturday, but his replacement for 2016, Neil Thorman, was in dazzling touch.
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