SURROUNDED: Southcity strongman Will Merritt is swarmed upon by Albury defenders at Greenfield Park on Sunday. Merritt scored the last-minutye try that gave the Bulls a 40-38 victory. Picture: The Border MailSOUTHCITY captain-coach Daniel Fitzhenry yesterday ended his Greenfield Oval drought in the most spectacular way possible.
After four straight losses to the Thunder on the border, Fitzhenry was finally able to celebrate as the Bulls nailed the dual-Group Nine premier 40-38 in a last-minute thriller.
Down 38-34 with time almost up, the Bulls unleashed one last raid – and barnstorming centre Will Merritt did the rest.
Seizing the moment, Merritt sizzled over for a try to square the score sheet, setting up Nathan Rose to boot the conversion for a dramatic victory.
Amid the jubilation later, Fitzhenry admitted the stunning success was one of the sweetest of his four years at Southcity.
“It was very good, and I’m very happy,” Fitzhenry said later.
“I can’t wipe the smile of my face.”
Coming after a four-year wait for a success at Greenfield Park, Fitzhenry’s delight was easy to understand.
And the fact that yesterday’s heart-stopping win has also certainly secured the Bulls the minor premiership – and a major semi-final at Harris Park in three weeks – only made matters even better.
Heading into the last round, Southcity has edged to the top of the Group Nine, displacing Albury as the number one team in the premiership.
For the Bulls, the guarantee of playing a home semi-final now rests entirely on whipping lowly Tumbarumba on Saturday, something Fitzhenry is not about to take for granted.
“This has given us a lot of confidence, but we still have to beat Tumba at home,” Fitzhenry said.
“That’s one of those dangerous sort of games, and we can’t start getting ahead of ourselves.”
On a day of stunning success, Fitzhenry was refusing to get completely swept up in the hype of the result.
Taking stock, Fitzhenry said the Bulls could ill afford to get carried away with the significance of toppling the Thunder at their citadel.
“Don’t forget we beat Albury at this time last year and they thrashed us 34-0 in the semis,” he said.
“This could work in our favour, but it’s such an open competition you can’t take anything for granted.”
Despite a remarkable flow of points in yesterday’s duel between the first and second teams on the ladder, the Bulls coach declared there was no lack of spirit involved.
“Yes, there were a lot of points scored, but it was a physical game,” he said.
“It was a tough … just like you’d expect.”
Rather than rest on their laurels, the Bulls needed to work even harder in the coming weeks, Fitzhenry stressed.
“You only need to have a bad day and the other team play out of their skins and you’re in trouble,” he said
Albury and Southcity were definitely teams in dynamic touch yesterday, with barely a scoring chance missed by either of them.
In a frenetic first half, they traded tries before Merritt crossed in the dying minutes to give the Bulls a 24-18 lead at half-time.
Earlier, the Thunder had broken out to a 18-6 after Jon Huggett smashed his way over in the 29th minute, but the Bulls responded.
The second half unfolded in exactly the same way, with tries coming fast and furious.
However, when Ben Jeffery scored a chip and re-gather try in the 65th minute the Thunder were out to 38-30 lead – only to have Ned Mortimer score for the Bulls to cut the deficit to 38-34 in the 70th minute.
Two close calls went again the Thunder, including Hayden Sweeney being denied a try in the 77th minute, before Merritt snatched the clincher on the siren.
For the Bulls, Merritt (three tries), winger Jack Lyons (two tries), second rower Nick Skinner and prop Jordan Shepherd were outstanding.
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