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Albury and Wagga could not be split in Group 9 rugby league action

The Albury Thunder held the Wagga Kangaroos to a 22-all draw in the fourth round of this year’s Group 9 competition.

Neither side could take the game by the horns in a match that ebbed and flowed mainly due to mistakes and poor discipline.

It was a scrappy start to the match in front of a large Albury crowd, with the Roos making successive errors in the opening three minutes. (Photo: Cat Butler Photography)

The home team took advantage of the second invitation. After a mountain of early possession, they swung the ball left to captain Lachy Munro, who worked his way to the line.

Keanau Wighton pulled away the conversion attempt and Albury were 4-0 up after just four minutes.

The Wagga side were their own worst enemies, conceding consecutive penalties after points.

Wagga’s first real attacking opportunity didn’t come until the 27th minute of the first half, and Albury held firm with some excellent goal-line defence.

The decisive moment came when Jeremy Wiscombe stopped Zac Graham, who tried to dig in for a try at the final tackle.

Without champion playmaker Nathan Rose, who had earlier left the field with an arm injury, James Smart led the Roos around the park and forced a replay set before a frantic 10-minute period of play before the break.

The pressure eventually turned to Albury and a charging Simione Naiduki charged into the Thunder’s line before being offloaded to a probing Graham, who found space before pushing his way for a good effort under the posts.

Charlie Barton made no mistake in the conversion attempt and the Roos led 6-4 after 34 minutes.

Albury’s poor discipline caught up with them, and the visiting team enjoyed successive sets in the attacking half.

Wagga took advantage when Smart delivered a perfectly placed kick across the pitch, which deflected off two Albury players battling for the ball.

De Steeden fell to Zeik Foster, who scored one of the easiest tries of his career.

Barton was again on target from the right of the posts and Wagga took a 12–4 lead.

After forcing another penalty, Wagga had the wind in their sails, and Graham was involved again as he fired from dummy half before throwing a cut-away pass to a charging Hayden Jolliffe, who crashed to the left of the posts.

As the half-time siren sounded, Barton threw in the easy conversion try for Wagga to lead 18-4 at half-time.

After the break, Wagga almost sealed the result with the Roos on the Albury goal line and pushing for a fourth successive try.

Foster swung the ball to the left, spotted an overlap and fired a ball to his winger, allowing Wighton to read the pass perfectly, intercept the ball and run away for an entertaining try from 95 yards below the black spot.

After catching their breath, Wighton added the two points to leave Albury trailing 18-10 early in the second half.

Playing some ad-lib footy from their own half, Wighton flew high via a deft kick before passing to second rower Isaac Carpenter who sprinted to the line to score.

Wighton converted and Albury only trailed 18-16 after 58 minutes of play.

With fatigue on both sides they looked up, but the Kangaroos were able to make something out of nothing.

Interchange’s Khaileb Cameron-Pani was on the left and fended off Jackins Olam with a big ‘don’t argument’ before a show-and-go beat Lachy Munro to the line for the try of the match.

Charlie Barton scored to the left of the posts and had a chance to make it an eight-point game, but the winger cleared the attempt and Wagga led 22-16 with nine minutes remaining.

Justin Carney continued to inspire his outfit, with Albury eliminating on the blindside before 100-game player Blake Grounds forced a foul in Wagga’s half.

On the ensuing play-the-ball, Grounds capped off a big second half by scoring and scoring the game-leveling try.

While under pressure to make the conversion attempt 10 yards from the left flank, Wighton made it look easy and the scores all remained at 22.

In other Round Four matches, it was a huge weekend of action in Group 9.

Tumut got off to a good start, with the Blues inspired by a Ben Hampstead treble to beat the Junee Diesels 34-16 at Twickenham Oval.

Young reached the equal top of the table when he defeated Wagga Brothers 36-26 at McDonald’s Park.

Cherrypickers captain-coach Thomas Giles will be one of the early favorites for the 2024 Weissel Medal, with the talented bookend scoring a double to take his season tally to five.

Gundagai continued their assault up the Group 9 ladder in a match between two heavyweights, defeating previously undefeated Temora Dragons 14-8 at Nixon Park. Will Herring starred in the critical win with two tries and a conversion.

Click here for the ladders, draws and results of Group 9.