An inspired defensive display from City has secured the visitors a 20-10 win over Country at Mudgee on Sunday.
Played in front of a crowd of 8322 people in the final City-Country clash, Brad Fittler’s outfit stuck strong without the ball to deny the hosts points on three separate occasions, a Bryce Cartwright four-pointer right on full-time icing the historic victory.
City skipper Paul Gallen pulled down in-form Gungahlin product Paul Vaughan inches from the stripe inside the opening 10 minutes.
While in the second term, twice City miraculously halted Country backrower Tariq Sims.
After intercepting a pass in the early stages of the final term, Sims was brought down by Nathan Ross, who sensationally pulled off a one-on-one strip on the Gerringong Lions junior.
Then, inside the final 10 minutes of the clash, Sims again found space, dummied several times to pass would-be tackles from Jake Marketo and Josh Addo-Carr, before Clint Gutherson came from behind to stop Sims a couple of metres short of the try line.
At 14-10 down, Sims break had to net points, but City’s line held firm to deny the hosts in front of a vocal Glen Willow crowd.
Victorious City mentor Brad Fittler was full of praise for his team, the bulk of which was unheralded before the Mudgee clash.
“It was great, the effort in defence particularly, there was plenty of times when we were stuck on our line for a while and we just kept aiming up,” Fittler enthused.
“Outside of a few intercepts and a line break at the end, there wasn’t too many times our line was broken.
“That’s a really good sign of a team that worked hard for each other.”
Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon lauded his side’s defence, but it was his team’s lack of execution that cost it.
“We set it up to try and and get it at the back end of the game we just didn’t get that try we were after,” Fitzgibbon said.
“We got so close on a couple of occasions. That’s the difference at a rep footy level.”
Earlier, City posted first points thanks to some slick work from premiership winning Cronulla half Chad Townsend.
The Yarrawarrah junior provided the polish Country lacked through their halves Cody Walker and Tyrone Roberts.
Townsend sent 31-year-old debutant David Gower over early to gift their side a 6-0 lead.
It was then 6-all after Grafton Ghost Anthony don intercepted a Cartwright pass to race 90 metres to score.
The margin at the break was 8-6 thanks to a successful City penalty goal right on the siren from Gutherson.
That advantage was then 14-6 when former NSW Origin prop James Tamou sliced through some wafer thin Country defence to score City’s second four-pointer of the clash.
At that point, it was all City. But a string of penalties enabled the hosts to get back into the contest.
49 | That was wafer thin from Country - terrible defence. Tamou in. Clearly into the action. This is set up for City now. 14-6 #CountryCity— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) May 7, 2017
Tathra’s Adam Elliot darted through a gap on the hour mark to make it 14-10 and ensure a grand stand finish.
But the hosts stumbled at the crucial hurdles.
Cartwright’s try right on full-time sealing the result, City’s second win in succession over Country after a 44-30 win in Tamworth in 2016.
In-form Dragons prop Paul Vaughan was strong for the Country side, doing his chances of an Origin jumper no harm.
Likewise his St George-Illawarra teammate Jack de Belin.
While for the winners, hooker Cam McInnes and half Chad Townsend provided the steady-hand that Country lacked. A crucial trait for the winners in a clash that didn’t reach any great heights.