HISTORY has proved that any win over the Manning River Ratz is a good win for Forster-Tuncurry so that their 29-17 victory to preserve season’s unbeaten record on Saturday should have sent the Dolphins into seventh heaven.
But rather than a state of immediate euphoria, some of the Dolphins’ more seasoned followers greeted their seventh successive win with a degree of caution.
Four tries to two indicated the attacking supremacy of the Dolphins at Tuncurry while in the Gloucester ranges, a four tries to one bonus point win by the Myall Coast Mudcrabs (22-8) over the Cockies reinforced the new club’s second position in the Lower Mid North Coast competition. Taking advantage of last season’s premiers Old Bar having a bye, the Wallamba Bulls continued their resurgence by edging ahead of the Clams for third position with a resounding 75-8 win over the Harrington Hurricanes at Nabiac, Chris Tout running in a hat trick of tries and kicking ten goals for a phenomenal 35 points.
The Dorvik Steel Dolphins (42 points) are worthy competition front runners as is apparent from their seven bonus points. But having established their credentials, the going becomes rougher now with every team becoming more ambitious to knock the leaders off their perch. Too many missed first-up tackles, too many players walking after an hour and too many penalties given away triggered warning signals.
The Ratz are an uncompromising side. Jon Annand was back at hooker after a bad chest ligament injury and he and Ricky Clifton engaged in a fine battle, neither side gaining clear scrummaging superiority where Ben Hunter proved a tenacious customer at prop.
With back rower Mitchell Carter claiming nine lineout wins, the Dolphins’ Ryan Fenning and Ryan Scott had to have their wits about them in the aerial jousting, having marginally the better of the duel. At the breakdown, again the Ratz were rough and tough with Clifton’s energy and mobility reminding of earlier days when he was the Dolphins’ open-side flanker. But it was across Tom Harris’ penetrative back line that the home side gained the advantage, Harris sweeping on to pivot Matt Nuku’s deft chip for the first try and tireless lock Chris Simon and Clifton combining for the second on the blind side from Scott’s lineout.
The 10-0 lead at half-time was valuable if not convincing, especially when five-eighth Jake Maurierere scored after a long-passing move featuring Ratz props Hunter and Daniel Stone. Dolphins play-maker Jamie Fernando dummied his way through a shabby defence for the third try and David Birch stirred fond memories by initiating Number Eight Scott’s try in the last minute for the bonus point.
Around the Dolphins’ scrum base, halfback Tim Chilton was exceptional in clearing the traffic jams while lock Simon’s all round value continues to grow as a link to the outside backs, centre Sam Leigh, fullback Mark Hagarty and winger Jack Woods.
Forster-Tuncurry 29 defeated Manning River 10. Myall Coast 22 defeated Gloucester 8. Wallamba 75 defeated Harrington 8.