The year-long vacation in Italy of former coach, Ron McCarthy cannot end soon enough for all the worth of the Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins’ bonus point win over Manning River at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday.
The Dolphins ran in their fourth try in the last minute through enterprising outside-centre, Blake Newcombe in their 26-0 defeat of the Ratz, but the performance illustrated the difficulties the club has faced without a coach since a week before the competition kick-off.
McCarthy’s successor made an ill-timed departure on the eve of his second season, dissatisfied with training numbers, leaving the all-important final preparations of the squad to the club’s on-field leaders, captain Tom Homer and vice-captain Matt Nuku.
In trying circumstances, the players have served the Dolphins splendidly, organising and running training and taking the team into the co-leadership of the Kennards Hire premiership with the Wallamba Bulls, 66-7 winners over the Old Bar Clams at Nabiac on Saturday.
McCarthy took the club to its 2013-2016 sequence of four successive premierships and will return from Perugia in Italy midway through next month to resume coaching the team.
Grand finalists last winter, the Dolphins meet the defending premiers, Wallamba, at Nabiac on May 12. Next weekend, the club competition will be suspended with players required for the Mid North Coast Axemen’s venture into the top tier of the N.S.W. Country Championships at Warren.
The Dolphins began pleasingly on Saturday with hooker Scott Walmsley’s scrum driving their opponents back followed by the forwards executing a splendid 20-metre rolling maul and prop Col Harris making a long, powerful charge down-field.
But with the Ratz defending vigorously, it was not until the 19 th minute that the Dolphins converted territory into points, five-eighth Nuku stepping through for the initial try.
Jack Woods came off the bench to win valuable lineout possession and a long searching kick downfield saw fullback Jack Nicholson’s tremendous pace rewarded with a second try and the Dolphins’ lead extended to 14-0 with Nuku’s conversion at the break.
Increasingly, the heavy-handed control of the game by young referee, Connor Rogers, had its influence. His 38 penalties and two yellow cards administered discipline and led to frustration.
Interruptions every second minute prevented natural flow in the game.
Veteran Dolphins centre champion, Tom Harris, at halfback after last year’s crippling skiing accident, provided a slick service and the centre combination of Mark Hagarty and Newcombe functioned well. But workaholic flanker, Homer, and dexterous playmaker, Nuku, were exceptional.
The speed of new winger Jayden Steffen enabled him to pressure the Ratz’ last line of defence, for the Dolphins to reclaim possession for Nuku’s second try.
For the Ratz, long-serving Mitch Carter had a splendid game and lock Sam Hartnett won valuable lineout ball and toiled fearlessly in the tight.
In the Women’s Sevens, Keely Holden scored a try and shone with Monique Foster for Manning River’s Lady Ratz in their 28-5 win over the Dolphinettes, for whom Chloe Coble ran from near half-way for her fine try.
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