Waratah League: Tamworth Thunderbolts aim to garrotte Canberra Gunners' offence in semi-final clash

ASSET: Kyle Gupton will be a key offensive weapon in Saturday's knockout semi-final against Canberra in Maitland.

ASSET: Kyle Gupton will be a key offensive weapon in Saturday's knockout semi-final against Canberra in Maitland.

Thunderbolts coach John Ireland is mapping a course leading to what he hopes is the side’s first grand final in five years by emphasising a twist  to the adage that the best defence is a good offence.

The Thunderbolts meet the Canberra Gunners in a Waratah League Division 1 men’s semi-final in Maitland on Saturday afternoon, with Ireland confident his side can claim victory by repeating the defensive strangulation effort that saw them beat Sutherland 77-67 in last weekend’s opening final.

“Our biggest offensive weapon is our defence,” said Ireland, who coached the Thunderbolts in their 2012 grand final loss to Coffs Harbour.

“If we do the job defensively we know we’ve got enough offensive weapons across our 12 guys that we can outscore a team as long as we contain their scorers as much as possible.”

That won’t be easy against what Ireland has described as a young side who are “very well drilled, very athletic” and who shoot “exceptionally”.

That being said, Ireland said the Thunderbolts were also a young and athletic side who “matched up well” against the Gunners.

Tamworth has had a low-key build-up to the match this week, in which the winner will play either the Bankstown Bruins or the St George Saints.

They had dinner together on Wednesday night and watched video of Canberra, followed by a light training session on Thursday.

Ireland expects the Gunners to try and play uptempo basketball and run a lot of on-ball screens.

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