Deniliquin proved itself to be a genuine premiership contender after knocking off Southern Inland Rugby Union ladder-leader Ag College on Saturday.
The Aggies were previously undefeated coming into the match, but were met by a frightful force that upset them 14-12 on their home turf.
Drovers coach Warwick Strong said it was his side’s ‘‘biggest win in a long time’’, and they did it with several key players missing.
‘‘With different players out and others coming in, blokes really put their hands up,’’ Strong said.
‘‘It proves that we are now up there (as a premiership contender).
‘‘We are winning away games and beating top sides. I’ve been in sides that could only win home games and that means you’re just not up to it.
‘‘The danger now is getting ahead of ourselves and we don’t want to get too excited.’’
The home side started off stronger on Saturday but was only able to score through Deni’s mistakes.
An error in Ag College’s half saw the opposition pick up the ball and make an easy try, while four penalties in a row from Deni saw the Aggies score their second.
The Drovers trailed 12-0 at half-time.
‘‘In the second half we didn’t let them back in the game. We basically dominated,’’ Strong said.
‘‘We just cut down on our errors and penalties and played field position.’’
Strong said number-eight Mario Jackson and breakaway Pete Gow were unstoppable in the second half, regularly picking up the ball and making 15 metre runs.
‘‘Mario and Pete really put the Aggies on the back foot,’’ Strong said.
Controversy continues to surround the Drovers’ first try, with Jackson and Robbie Fisicaro both claiming to have made the score.
The Drovers forwards set it up with some aggressive pick-and-drive work. Prop Stu Kent was unlucky not to have scored himself after the referee deemed him held up over the line.
But that was before Fisicaro and Jackson pounced.
Both players grabbed the ball at the same time and leapt over the top of a mess of players to score. Two sets of hands were on the ball when it was touched down, so the Deni players decided to put the try down to ‘Mario Fisicaro’.
Not long after that, five-eighth Nathan Holahan cut straight through the backs to score the winning try.
Fullback Todd Thocolich kicked both conversions, including one from out wide.
Strong said he was pleased with the efforts of prop Nathan Transton, second-rower Chris Poka and captain Jack Ellice-Flint.
Mario Jackson was awarded the three votes as Deni’s best player. Gow scored two, while Reed Jackson and Holahan shared one each.
Gow was also named the Player’s Player and prop Stu Kent took home the Dingo Award.