Festivities were loud and long into the night as the Manning River Ratz celebrated the 21st anniversary of their rugby union club after administering a double dose of poison to the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday.
The Ratz’ women’s sevens team began proceedings with a meritorious five tries to one and 29-5 success against the Dolphinettes and the day just got better for the Ratz’ old and bold, nicely primed for action on the Hill, with their modern-day counterparts turning the tables on the Dolphins, 17-12.
It was a stunning Ratz transformation.
On the same ground, as recently as April 26, the Dolphins won their clash, four tries to nil and 26-0.
The win pointed significantly to the Ratz’ improved attitude to the physicality required for a rugged first grade encounter and reflected poorly on the Dolphins’ numbers at training and lack of commitment for all the efforts of coach Ron McCarthy.
The game began disastrously for the Dolphins when a desperate clearing kick in the fifth minute slewed across-field in the visitors’ quarter and three phases later, Tim Rees burst through from short range for the first of the Ratz’ two tries.
With Sam Hartnett to the forefront of the action, the Ratz chanced their arm in attack and with their forwards willingly giving and taking punishment, the Men on the Hill had good reason to cheer as their team simply out-slogged and out-stayed their rivals.
The Ratz’ spirited performance was all the more praiseworthy considering the siege their scrum came under from Dolphins hooker Scott Walmsley’s pack of forwards.
One player in particular shone for the Dolphins, Colin Harris, ever-ready to charge the ball into the teeth of the opposition or wrestle his adversaries for possession despite a chipped elbow.
It was after a series of rugged exchanges that another of the Dolphins’ best, hefty young lock, Lachlan Daczko, drove through opposition ranks for a try for the Dolphins to trail 5-7 at half-time.
Midway through the second half, the Ratz’ exciting 20-year-old inside-centre, James Howard, was yellow carded by referee Michael Tonks, but only after running in the best try of the afternoon, brushing off tacklers in a thrilling 30-metre run to the line.
Justifiably, the Dolphins’ number one fan, Phil Guiney, called, “Let’s have some tackling, Dolphins!”
With the Dolphins’ forwards camped under the Ratz’ goal posts, halfback Tom Harris capitalised on their scrum superiority to attack around the corner for a vital second try and briefly a 12-10 lead.
But Hartnett’s goal-kicking prowess worked a treat and he regained the lead for the Ratz with his consistency, two conversions and two penalty goals securing deserved victory.
This was a success built on a combination of experiencer and youth with the likes of speedy fullback Damon Minnett, tireless flankers Chris Fitzsimmons and Joel Seguna, halfback Mitch Carter and utility back Jake Maurirere all valuable contributers.
The Ratz’ sevens team won possession and dominated it throughout the women’s game, physical up front and fast out wide, Emma Croker scoring the initial try and proving the outstanding player of the game with Emma Williams a fine defender.
For the Dolphins, Bianca Rugari’s vigorous tackling was exceptional with Emma Forde, Danielle Lewis and Tedeisha Heaslip all having strong games.
Next Saturday, Tom Harris, the 37-year-old Dolphins champion, will celebrate his 200 th game against the Gloucester Cockies at Barclay Field, Tuncurry, emulating the feat achieved earlier this season by tight-head Ben Manning.
Manning Valley 20 (T Rees J Howard; S Hartnett two goals two pen goals) beat Forster Tuncurry 12 (L Daczko T Harris tries; M Nuku goal). Wallamba 55 beat Old Bar 3 and Gloucester had the bye.
In the women’s sevens, Manning River (S Clarke 2 E Croker R Salmon M Foster tries; J Maher 2 goals) beat Forster Tuncurry 5 (T Heaslip try); Wallamba 22 (four tries) beat Old Bar 10.