GREATER Northern Tigers earned a Tier 2 Country Championship semi-final clash with North Coast on the Central Coast in a fortnight after seeing off Western Rams in a dour and tough opening-round clash at Singleton’s ResCo Park on Saturday.
A Tim Smith try three minutes from fulltime won the game for the Darryl Rando-coached Tigers, the brilliant Scone fullback breaking the Rams’ hearts with a short dash from dummy half to catch the defence out.
Singleton backrower Brady Hammond had earlier scored for Greater Northern for Scone winger Joel Harrison to convert after Dubbo Macquarie’s Chris Daley had scored for Western.
Earlier, Northern Rivers had earned a semi-final berth against Southern Division at Morrie Breen Oval on June 14 with a 50-24 win over Riverina at ResCo Park.
While that was an open match, the Tigers and Rams went at it in a tough and tense 80 minutes featuring just the three tries.
“It was a real dour game,” GN Regional manager Scott Bone said.
“A real knock’em down drag’em out match.”
Denman Devil Ben Hagan revelled in the slugfest and, with skipper Daniel Ritter and Aberdeen prop Marcus Marsh, was the best for the Tigers.
West Lions captain-coach Chris Hunt was another to shine while Bathurst Panthers prop Brent Seager might have ben the best afield despite playing in a losing side.
“He was outstanding,” Bone said.
“He carted the ball up all game and whacked our blokes all day in defence.”
Rando is hopeful all his squad pulled through unscathed.
“It was a very physical game.
“We always knew it would be and that it would probably be our most physical game.
“But all the boys turned up to play today. Everyone played their part.”
He said Hagan was his side’s best.
“He was our players’ player,” Rando said of a side which came through largely unscathed.
“We’ll see how Ben Murray is and check on his arm,” he said.
“But that’s about it. Everyone got through without injury.
“All they have to do is get through their club games this weekend and then they have the long weekend off before we play North Coast the following weekend in Wyong.
“It’s going to be great if we can keep this squad together.”
He said both sides should be congratulated on the way they played.
“It was a tough game,” Rando said.
GREATER NORTHERN 12 (Brady Hammond, Tim Smith tries, Joel Harrison 2gls) d WESTERN RAMS 6 (Chris Daley try, Tom Lewsley gl).