A huge turnout of supporters from both the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins and the Wallamba Bulls at the Peter Barclay sporting complex in Tuncurry set the scene for a memorial grand final of the Lower Mid North Coast (LMNC) competition.
Following on from last year’s grand final win by the Bulls, the Dolphins were out for vengeance and the first half did not disappoint.
The patience and hard work in defence from the Dolphins allowed the home side to dominate.
Forster received two early penalties in succession, allowing Nuku to convert both and the score line progressed to 6-0 after 25 minutes.
The Wallamba Bulls defence was put to the test, allowing breakaway Troy Haines to crash over near the posts for a try.
Nuku converted and the score line was 13-0 in favour of the home side after 30 minutes.
With only 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Troy Haines was sent to the sin bin for an indiscretion, reducing the Dolphins to 14 men.
This allowed the Bulls to utilise their slick backline and score wide out.
The conversion was successful and at half time the score line was 13-7 in favour of the Dolphins.
The second half address in the Wallamba Bulls dressing room meant the Bulls to emerged full of spirit, knowing that to win they would need a much-improved effort in both defence and attack.
Unforced errors, penalties and some poor decision making contributed to a poor start to the second half for the Dolphins
Possession being the key word, the Bulls looked dangerous every time the touched the ball and it was only a matter of time before they crossed wide out for a try.
The conversion was unsuccessful, the score line now 13-12 to the Dolphins.
With 15 minutes remaining, both teams had opportunities to seal victory, then, with the Bulls attacking the line the unforgivable happened; a Bulls player was taken out without the ball and a seven point penalty try was awarded.
Although the Dolphins tried hard in the remaining minutes the Bulls’ defence was far to good and allowed them to run out deserved winners of the LMNC grand final, 19-13.
There were no better players for the Dolphins than the Harris brothers, Col and Tom, and for Wallamba, Tim Tout and James Hannaford excelled for the 2018 premiers.
In the women’s final, Gloucester players broke a 46 year hoodoo when winning the inaugural Lower North Coast sevens grand final at Tuncurry.
“The club’s been going for 46 years and we’ve never won a premiership until Saturday,’’ a jubilant coach Dave Cox said.
Gloucester defeated Wallamba 26-10 to claim the title. Women’s sevens was introduced into the Lower North Coast competition this year.
Courtney Whitby was named player of the match after constantly menacing the Wallamba defence. She played rugby league for Gloucester High School the previous Thursday against Mt Druitt and had six stitches inserted into a wound on her chin.
“But that didn’t worry her,’’ coach Cox said.
“Courtney was outstanding.’’
She scored two tries and added two conversions. Other try scorers were Rhea Holstein and Jordyn Snape, who also kicked a conversion.
However, Gloucester didn’t have it all their own way. Wallamba dominated the early passages and came up with an unconverted try to lead 5-0.
“We went back to basics,’’ Cox said.
“We didn’t panic, got to the clean out and got the ball wide whenever we could.’’
The game had some willing moments, with a number of penalties for high shots while one Wallamba player was yellow carded.
Cox said he couldn’t fault his team’s commitment.
“We were training one night a week but the girls wanted to go to two nights – that’s how keen they were,’’ he said.
He said the introduction of women’s sevens to the competition was a great success. All five clubs fielded teams.
Some of the Gloucester players had experience in gala days last year while others played with Gloucester High.
“There’s talk of the competition going to 10s next year,’’ Cox said.
“That’ll be a good development.’’
It’s taken nearly half a century for the club to finally win a premiership.
“Now we’re hoping it won’t be the last,’’ Cox said.
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