The Gloucester Cockies won the scrummaging battle, but the Wallamba Bulls out-ran and out-stayed them in the manner expected of defending premiers for a decisive 47-10 victory in the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union match at Gloucester on Saturday.
A game which promised spirited opposition from Gloucester at 14-10 just before half-time lurched beyond their control when the Bulls’ Axemen’s flanker, Daniel Hessing, displaying typical pace and enterprise, tapped and scurried over for the try with the whistle about to sound.
Despite being birched in the penalties, 12-7, by referee Dale McAuley, there was no stopping the Bulls in the second half with the Cockies’ youthful defenders lapsing out wide and missing tackles, allowing their rivals to charge home for another four tries.
Wallamba’s five-eighth Chris Tout began and ended his team’s initial try, but the try of the match stemmed from Tout’s clearing kick near his own line which he regathered down-field to race the length of the ground for an early claimant to “try of the year”.
At Old Bar, the Manning River Ratz threw off some early-season lethargy, seen in their first-round home game loss to Gloucester, by outclassing the Clams, 36-10, in the Kennards Hire premiership with their women’s sevens side accounting for the Lady Clams, 21-10.
In Gloucester, there was a splendid preview game in the women’s sevens encounter with the Wallamba Bullets outlasting the Gloucester Timbers, four tries to three and 20-19, Kaley “Big Red” Barnett displaying strength and speed for three tries, Courtney Whitby again excelling for Gloucester with two tries.
Even if Wallamba showed understandable signs of summer rust against the Cockies, not helped by their first-round bye, the scrums were illuminating with Gloucester’s pack dominant, MNC squad hooker Ken Wamsley and his warrior props, Mitch Meredith and Mick Wooster, driving their opponents back on several occasions.
It was from one such scrum that Gloucester’s nimble five-eighth, Ryan Yates, wrong-footed Wallamba’s defence and weaved in for his team’s 27 th minute try near the posts.
But Wallamba number eight, Lee McDonald exposed Gloucester’s vulnerability in midfield with a barrelling, try-scoring run and inside-centre, James Handford, another bound for Warren with the Axemen for the NSW Country championships later this month, sealing Gloucester’s fate with his swerving dash to the line.
Handford was to be named man of the match with halfback and captain, Andy Paynter, lock Phil Entwistle and speedy three-quarters Jayden Watt and Jake Schumacher others to impress.
“We always have a strong scrum and the lads invariably take a step up against the Bulls. They are the bench-mark,” the Cockies president, Tim Threadgate said of his forwards.