The Wallamba Bulls almost had their competition-long lead in the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union competition snatched from them by an unexpected ally of the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins at Nabiac on Saturday.
The Manning River Ratz proved as tenacious as their namesakes in restricting the Bulls to a 27-0 success, the Bulls’ fourth try gaining them the bonus point they needed to bring them level with the Dolphins on 60 points, crushing 81-0 winners over the Old Bar Clams.
Two rounds of the minor premiership remain with the home ground benefit of Super Saturday’s semifinal double-header dependent on the outcome of the Dolphins’ clash with the Bulls in their 15th round game at Nabiac next Saturday week (July 29).
The fragility of the competition and the inability of some clubs to muster sufficient troops for away games was illustrated by Myall Coast’s match at Gloucester Park, the Mudcrabs beginning with 10 players against the full-strength Gloucester Cockies before losing bravely, 68-7.
The Dolphins were blissfully unaware of proceedings at Nabiac and Gloucester when they met the Old Bar Clams at Peter Barclay Field, Tuncurry, and how the Bulls, leaders of the competition since April, were on thin ice at home against the Ratz.
The Dolphins’ 13 tries says much for the speed and organisation of the defending premiers’ back line with triple try-scorer Jesse Logan settling splendidly in to his midfield role outside five-eighth Matt Nuku and centre partner Mark Hagarty, with Kurt Forester the most enterprising of fullbacks.
Captain Tom Homer was a tireless inspiration on the side of the Dolphins’ scrum with MNC representative prop, Ben Manning, among the try-scorers.
The scoreline says nothing for the spirit and organisation engendered by new Clams coach, Tim Tout, the courage of of former MNC Axeman hooker, Teia Ambrosoli, returning to the field after being told he needed a fortnight to recover from injury, and the buoyancy of five-eighth Brendon “Pommmy” Roberts and the Petrisic brothers, Nick and Ben.
Likewise, the Clams’ scrum was no pushover, stealing two strikes against the feed where front-rowers Brad Lewis, hooker Aaron Swan and Sean Puketapu were worthy rivals.
Next Saturday’s round sees the Dolphins at home against Gloucester; Old Bar meet Manning River at Richard Crook Field; and Myall Coast play Wallamba at Hawks Nest.
FORSTER TUNCURRY 81 (J Logan 3 M Hagarty 2 T Homer 2 K Forester 2 B Manning R Avard Z Palmer J Bell tries; L Crozier 3 goals M Nuku 3 goals J Paff 2 goals) beat OLD BAR 0; WALLAMBA 27 beat MANNING RIVER 0; GLOUCESTER 68 beat MYALL COAST 7.