A first-half forward onslaught by the Wallamba Bulls yielded the all-important rugby union triumph the club has planned and hungered for when they defeated the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, 29-21, at Nabiac on Saturday.
Despite the apparently narrow eight-point margin, the Bulls’ four tries to nil and 22-0 lead at half-time summarised the decisive nature of the Bulls’ success.
Before the biggest crowd in years, the Dolphins fought back and narrowed the gap to 22-21 after 75 minutes, speaking volumes for the courage and commitment of the defending premiers.
One suspected the unbeaten Bulls always had the extra try up their sleeve.
Thirty five metres out, the Dolphins on desperate defence, line-out ace Jack Woods won the crucial leap only for the Bulls to regain possession for five-eighth James Dinnan’s long pass to find centre James Handford, and his dash to the line.
Not for years, not since the grand clashes of the Old Bar Clams against the Dolphins rocked the Lower Mid North Coast competition, has rugby seen a better battle between two forward packs.
Captained splendidly by big prop Aaron Gordon, dislocating his shoulder, “popping” it back in and playing on, the scrummaging of Paul de Szell and inspired by the littlest terror, Daniel Hessing, the Bulls’ forwards were tremendous.
The Bulls buckled the Dolphins’ scrum, sending hooker Pat Randall off for treatment and at half-time young representative hooker, Jeremy Innes, was stretchered off with a torn hamstring muscle.
Both Dazcko brothers, Lachlan and Tim, were injured.
Ex-Gloucester half turned foraging flanker, Andy Paynter, found a gaping hole to send halfback Shorty Curnow dashing home; No 8 Daniel Aldridge thundered through tacklers for the second try; winger Denzel Russell scorched along the wing for the third; and the excellent inside-centre Handford pierced the Dolphins’ unguarded midfield for the fourth.
And there it was, all done and dusted in 38 minutes……not quite.
Coach Ron Rae moved flanker Troy Haines to hooker, ran on heavyweight lock Nigel Pereira and No 8 Chris Simon, neither of whom could train this season, and improvement in the Dolphins’ scrum was immediate.
Five-eighth Tom Harris stepped through for the Dolphins’ first try; half Liam Brady’s pressure freed the ball for skipper Tom Homer’s try; and winger Jack Nicholson retrieved a clearing kick and bolted 65 metres downfield to reduce the margin to one point.
The Bulls’ ace up their sleeve was 94kg centre, Handford, strong and fast, the match-winner to end the Dolphins’ 24-game winning sequence, begun in August, 2015, after being beaten by Manning River, 17-13.
Wallamba are a village club to be proud of.
Based at “Maestro Mat’s” Nabiac Hotel, Arthur Chapman is a passionate club president, Lee Sullivan and Jim Wilson are coaches with a will to win, they have a dedicated committee, sponsors and supporters, and they have playing depth.
The Dolphins marginally won the line-outs and the penalty count (12-7), but the Bulls won the collisions.
And what of the Dolphins’ playmaker Matt Nuku and MNC representative three-quarter, Naibuka Naqito? Nuku was nursing a rib cartilage injury.
Naibuka was in Bali.