OBERON Tigers made the long trip to Glen Willow Stadium on Sunday to face the fourth-placed Mudgee Dragons, who were breathing down their neck on the premiership ladder.
In a rugged game in which the teams swapped the lead at various stages, Mudgee emerged victors 24-12.
The win brings Mudgee level with Oberon in third place, however, the Dragons have a 57 points better “for-and-against” differential than the Tigers. Given that both teams have a similar draw running up to the semis, the Tigers will be looking to secure outright third place with better performances over the coming weeks.
Outstanding second-rower Trent Rose was a late withdrawal for the Tigers but, aside from still missing the injured Luke Branighan, the Tigers were able to field a formidable team.
The opening 10 minutes were a war of attrition with a barrage of heavy defence coming from both teams. Mudgee broke the deadlock 13 minutes into the match with a try out wide to lead 4-0 and, five minutes later, the Dragons were in again to jump out to a 10-0 lead.
The Tigers were guilty of failing to lock up the ball in defence, allowing Mudgee to slip passes to support runners. This had the Tigers scrambling to defend the Dragons’ raids.
Oberon found their rhythm and with a bit more possession, Jake Dawe was able to twice burst through the Dragons’ defence to put them on the back-foot.
Livewire Blake Miller doesn’t need an invitation with this scenario and he showed blinding acceleration to scorch through several defenders to put the Tigers on the board. Anton Wereta converted his try and so the Oberon chase began.
Five minutes later, Dawe again broke through for a 20-metre charge upfield. From the play the ball, Wereta shifted the ball left and found Tui Oloapu at full steam, who proved unstoppable to the tryline. Wereta converted and the Tigers were in command at 12-10.
As we’ve often mentioned, a try just before half time is a “coach-killer” and that was the case when the Dragons’ big Hamish Bryant barged over close to the Oberon posts to see Mudgee head to the sheds in front 16-12.
New Tigers signing Matt Wakefield made his mark early in the second half with two long-range breaks to put Mudgee under early pressure, but the Tigers failed to convert the pressure into points. The Dragons, having soaked up the early Oberon onslaught, marched upfield and scored in the corner through a freakish flick pass to increase their lead to 20-12.
Mudgee, smelling a victory, upped the tempo of the game and threw everything at Oberon’s defence. The Tigers held solid and it took a huge hit at the 18th minute mark from Oloapu to rally the Tigers for a final assault.
On two occasions, Oberon came within a breath of scoring, which would have seen them come home with a wet sail in the final 10 minutes. But dropped balls with the tryline open cost the Tigers. With less than 10 minutes remaining, Mudgee sealed the game with a 50-metre intercept try to win 24-12.
Players’ player and best and fairest went to Tui Oloapu, with Luke Carpenter and Blake Miller also picking up points.
After the game, coach Branighan called on his troops to “show more controlled aggression, especially in the tackle”. He said they must dominate in every tackle and not allow the number of offloads the Dragons made.
“I believe the squad we have can win this competition. I didn’t sign on to come second or third,” he said.
In the other games, the league tag girls had their first win of the season and first division pipped Mudgee 14-12, but our under 18s were well beaten.
Oberon will play at home against St Pat's this Saturday. League tag will start at 10.30am and premier league at 2.15pm.
THE Oberon Tigers league tag girls defeated Mudgee 18-16 on Saturday for their first win of the season.
Mudgee led 12-4 at half-time and then 16-4, but Oberon locked up the scores at 16-all with four minutes to go and Sarah McCusker slotted a pressure kick for an epic 18-16 win for the Tigers.
Players’ player went to Carly Elwin and the best and fairest award went to Sarah McCusker.
THERE will be no Old Tiges breakfast for this Saturday’s game. The annual Tigers Ball will be held that night.