In a display reminiscent of Banjo Paterson’s ‘Geebung Polo Club’, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins have progressed to the grand final of the Kennards Hire Lower Mid North Coast Rugby Union following a resurgent second half display over the Wallamba Bulls at Nabiac’s Aub Ferris Field.
The Dolphins’ support crew used rolls of electrical tape to strap together a team of players still bearing the battle scars from the previous week’s torrid encounter against Wallamba.
Such was his workload that even the club’s water runner, Mark Coble, bore a knee heavily strapped with green and gold tape.
Several times throughout the game the veteran forward shed the fluro vest covering his No 20 playing jumper to replace injured comrades.
Dolphin player, Matt Nuku, kicked a penalty goal to open the scoring in the sixth minute.
At the quarter way mark the strong running by Nabiac players Tom Berry and Dan Aldridge were punching holes in the Dolphin defence, laying the platform for his backs to spread the ball wide and deep in attack. Out wide the Dolphin’s Zac Palmer and Sean Hassett (normally a No. 8 but moved to the centre position by coach Ron McCarthy to cover the loss of Mark Hagarty) were superb in defence.
Following a lineout win, the Bulls half found their custodian, Chris Tout, who ran an angled run to score a converted try.
Shortly after Nuku kicked another penalty goal for the Dolphins. By now the Bulls forwards were asserting their ascendency as the Dolphins’ tired forwards longed for the half time break.
With five minutes of the half left Tout made another scything run through the entire Dolphin pack. He left players grasping at thin air on his way to score another converted try under the posts.
With only a minute of the half remaining the Bulls scrum half, Andrew Painter made an incisive run which led to James Handford’s converted try giving his team a 21-6 half time lead.
But the Dolphins emerged from the dressing sheds rejuvenated and full of positive play. With a strong forward platform to work behind, stand-in scrum half Tom Harris provided excellent service to his outside backs.
Clever tactical kicking by Nuku continually turned the Bulls massive forwards around, while the ball eluded Tout and his fellow backs. Repeated phases of play by the Dolphin pack eventually saw centre Hassett cross the try line out wide, then to improve the position for Nuku to slot over the conversion.
Dolphin young gun Shaun Jackson was asserting his authority over the more experienced Nabiac forwards. Following one strong, determined run, Col Harris took the ball from the base of a ruck and barged over the line for another converted try.
Shortly later Pat Randall made a strong run through the tiring Bull forwards. He passed to Col Harris who in turn slipped a beautiful ball to winger Zac Palmer to race away and score a converted try.
With the Dolphins now in the lead their forward pack dominated their opponents, thus starving the Bulls backline of any quality possession. They stole three ball from lineouts and secured the feed to two scrums after holding up the Bulls’ maul.
The Dolphins maintained a four point lead until the dying minutes when it was extended to the final score of 32-21. Palmer scooted away for his second converted meat pie.
The Dolphins will now meet the winner of next week’s preliminary final between Wallamba and Manning River at Peter Barklay Oval in a fortnight.
The Manning River Ratz will play the Wallamba ‘Bulls’ in the preliminary final of the women’s competition at Aub Ferris Field, this Saturday. Following that game the same clubs will meet in the preliminary final of the men’s competition.