THE Aberdeen Tigers will host the 2018 Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League decider in a fortnight’s time after knocking over the Scone Thoroughbreds 24-16 at McKinnon Field on Saturday.
Despite missing the services of Guy Thompson, Harry Douglass, Liam Fitzsimmons – to name a few – and losing gun playmaker Liam Foran at half-time, the defending premiers still had enough in the tank to claim the major semi-final at home.
The Tigers held a handy 24-6 lead mid-way through the second period, but the Thoroughbreds rallied in the dying stages to put some respectability into the scoreline.
Aberdeen received a dream start when captain Daniel Hoogerwerf barged his way over. Sharpshooter Ben Baker quickly made it 6-0 in the side’s favour.
A penalty to Baker extended the margin to 8-0.
Scone fought back close to the break when flyer Tim Smith latched onto the ball and crossed untouched. Jarrod Wicks landed the conversion to reduce the advantage to 8-6.
Following the interval, the Tigers surged further ahead, thanks to a barnstorming run by Samuel Fitzsimmons. Baker raised the flags and the scoreline to 14-6.
Another four-pointer, this time to Hamish Wolfgang, placed Aberdeen in the box seat at 18-6.
The turning point, some may say, occurred soon after when it appeared as though the Tigers knocked down a loose pass that went unnoticed.
Jesse McLean scooped the ball up and raced away to score near the uprights. Baker’s kick increased the lead to 24-6.
But, former NRL referee Shayne Hayne, who attended the fixture, praised the match officials who let play go on.
“As you can clearly see [from the video], the ball was kicked prior to touching the ground, which TJ Mark Bercini and referee Nick Martin correctly ruled play on and awarded a try,” he said.
“The officials were 100 per correct.”
Instead of dropping their bundle, Scone retaliated with two late tries of their own to Justin Apthorpe and Smith, giving him a double for the evening.
Earlier in the day, the Thoroughbreds claimed the reserve grade honours from the Tigers 32-10.
Under-18 minor premiers Singleton Greyhounds proved too strong for Scone 28-18.
The Thoroughbreds upstaged the Merriwa Magpies 28-10 in league tag.