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The Albury Thunder have held the table-topping Wagga Kangaroos to a 22-all draw in Round Four 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 errors and ill-discipline.

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

The home side took advantage of the second invitation. After a mountain of early possession, they swung the ball left for captain Lachy Munro, who muscled his way over on the line.

Keanau Wighton hooked the conversion attempt, and Albury led 4-0 after just four minutes.

The Wagga side was their own worst enemy, giving away back-to-back penalties after points.

Wagga’s first real attacking chance didn’t arrive until the 27th minute of the first half, and Albury held strong with some outstanding goal-line defence.

The defining moment came when Jeremy Wiscombe held up Zac Graham, who attempted to burrow over for a try on the last tackle.

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

The pressure eventually told on Albury and a barnstorming Simione Naiduki charged into the Thunder’s line before getting an offload to a probing Graham, who found space before powering his way over for a good try under the posts.

Charlie Barton made no mistake with the conversion attempt, and the Roo’s led 6-4 after 34 minutes.

Albury’s ill-discipline caught up on them, and the visiting outfit enjoyed successive sets in the attacking half.

Wagga capitalised when Smart put up a perfectly placed cross-field kick, which deflected off two Albury players competing for the ball.

The Steeden fell into Zeik Foster’s hands, 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 yet another penalty, Wagga had the wind in their sails, and Graham was again involved as he darted from dummy half before throwing a cut-out pass to a charging Hayden Jolliffe, who crashed over to the left of the posts.

With the siren for half-time sounding, Barton slotted the easy conversion attempt for Wagga to lead 18-4 at the break.

After the break, Wagga nearly sealed the result with the Roos on Albury’s goal line and pressing for a fourth consecutive try.

Swinging the ball left, Foster saw an overlap and fired a ball to his winger only for Wighton to read the pass perfectly, intercept the ball, and streak away for an entertaining 95-metre try under the black dot.

After catching his breath, Wighton added the two points for Albury to trail 18-10 early in the second half.

Playing some ad-lib footy from inside their own half, a deft kick found Wighton flying high  before offloading 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 setting in both sides looked out on their feet, but the Kangaroos were able to make something out of nothing.

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

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

Justin Carney continued to inspire his outfit, with Albury powering down the blindside before 100-game player Blake Grounds forced an error inside Wagga’s half.

Off the ensuing play-the-ball, Grounds capped off a big second half when scooting and scoring the game-levelling try.

While he was under pressure to make the conversion attempt 10 metres from the left touchline, Wighton made it look easy, and the scores were all locked up at 22-all.

In other Round Four games, it was a massive weekend of Group 9 action.

Tumut got off the mark, with the Blues inspired by a Ben Hampstead treble, defeating the Junee Diesels 34-16 at Twickenham Oval.

Young went to equal top of the table when defeating Wagga Brothers 36-26 at McDonald’s Park.

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

Gundagai continued their charge up the Group 9 ladder in a match between two heavyweights, defeating the 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 Group 9 ladders, draws, and results. 

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