Things started perfectly for Southcity’s quest for a third straight Group Nine title but it wasn’t meant to be.
Held to just Luke McBeath’s try for the game, the Bulls fell short of equalling Albury’s feat earlier this decade as Gundagai hit back from their last two grand final losses on Saturday.
The Bulls scored after four minutes before the Tigers launched into just their second title win from their last 13 attempts.
Southcity captain-coach Kyle McCarthy was impressed by what Gundagai threw at them as they went down 13-6 at Equex Centre.
“They turned up and played really well,” McCarthy said.
“They were well deserving of the win tonight.
“Everything we threw at them they had an answer for and then they came back twice as hard.
“It was tough to end on, but a well deserved win for them.”
After going down early following a couple of mistakes, Gundagai worked their way back into the contest.
With the Tigers able to make plenty of metres, McCarthy thought his team’s fortunes changed leading into Dylan Cole’s try.
“We got into a bit of a battle for field position mid first half and then they started to win that and got a few back-to-back sets,” he said.
“We defended our line really well, I think we defended five or six straight, and it took a kick for them to get round us so we were pretty happy going in to half-time.
“But the second half was the same again and they won that battle for field position and we were forever coming out of our own end and never got a chance to attack.”
The two teams have had very different fortunes this season.
While the Bulls have been flying high at the top of the ladder, an injury ravaged Tigers slipped to eighth near the midpoint before rallying late and hadn’t beaten Southcity all season.
The Bulls overturned a 22-0 deficit to win in round two before taking a 28-14 win at home in round 10.
They had only lost twice this season, in back-to-back games against Kangaroos and Brothers, but had their 10-game winning streak snapped in the game that matters the most.
McCarthy admitted to was a bitter end to what shaped as another massive season during his first year at the helm.
“It is tough,” he said.
“You work so hard through the season and had a big pre-season so it is hard coming up short.
“But it’s back to the drawing board and hopefully we can come back stronger next year.”
McCarthy expects to have most of the side back on deck for 2019.