A STRONG defensive performance helped CSU Yellow keep its New Era Cup league tag title hopes alive on Saturday, downing Portland 18-0 in their minor semi-final.
The Mungals rushed out to an 18-0 lead in the opening half at Diggings Oval, but after the break Portland pilled on the pressure as it battled to avoid elimination.
A smart passing game and clever kicks from Portland halfback Zarlia Griffiths tested the Mungals, but they slid well in defence and pulled off a number of diving tags to keep their line intact.
They will now face the loser of the CSU Blue versus Kandos major semi-final in the second grand final qualifier on July 21.
“We were pretty confident, we knew we had a good side coming in to the game, but the girls hadn’t been training as hard as we’d hoped because of the uni holiday season and it was a cold day,” Mungals’ Kate Schofield said.
“But we went out there really hard in that first half.
“Second half we were a bit on the back foot and they definitely had us defending for most of that half, but we held them out.
“We really work on our defence, that’s the main thing we do at training, try to take the pressure off each other. The girls are also really good supporting each other and having a positive vibe.”
With seven wins through the 10 regular season rounds, including a 22-8 victory over Portland, CSU Yellow qualified for the finals in third place.
The hosts put themselves under pressure early when knocking-on then being penalised for off-side, but their defence stood up to Portland’s first attacking foray.
The Mungals soon had their first chance following a strong run from Nikki Clift which made good yards. Clift, Carly Elwin and Jessica Berryman all came close before Schofield got the break through.
She put in a grubber which bounced awkwardly when Portland fullback Casey Schumack attempted to toe it into touch, Schofield then diving on the loose ball.
Berryman added the extras to make it 6-0 and just over a minute later the Mungals were in once again. From the kick-off the ball was spread to the right wing and Brigit Hides-Pearson showed a clean pair of heels to run away and score.
Though Portland found itself trailing 10-0 after eight minutes, the visitors rallied and had CSU pinned in its own half for the next seven minutes.
But an act of desperation from winger Mariah Oxenburgh, diving full length to stop Portland finding touch with a penalty kick then diving on the ball, switched momentum.
CSU marched back down field where Schofield scored as she chased through another smart grubber kick.
With 90 seconds of the half remaining the Mungals crossed again, this time via Berryman in the left corner after quick hands from Beth Durham.
That made it 18-0 at the break and that’s how the score remained as the Mungals absorbed a host of pressure to ensure their survival.