The Wallamba Bulls entrenched their position in the top three teams of the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union premiership at Aub Ferris Field, Nabiac, with a 53-17 defeat of the Wauchope Thunder on Saturday.
If the teams' defences were at times ragged, the rugby was always spirited and the back lines enterprising before the Bulls gained their valuable victory.
But, for the Thunder the enterprise of back-to-back games over the weekend appears to have proved a costly exercise with the bruised and battered club cancelling their proposed second game the following day against the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, a team desperate to stay in touch with the Kennards Hire defending champions, the Manning River Ratz, for the minor premiership.
If the Thunder's decision is interpreted as a forfeiture by the Mid North Coast Zone administration, as it is by the Dolphins club, and not as a postponement, it has almost certainly put the Thunder out of calculations for the play-offs.
The game began encouragingly for Wauchope. Conditions were near perfect after the rain and with the wind abating, it was splendid for rugby at Ferris Field.
Wallamba's heroic flanker, Daniel Hessing, as fearless as ever, was the first to make an impression, driving the ball up into the Wauchope forwards and scoring the try. He was joined in the Bulls' team after half-time by his equally valuable, lineout-winning brother, Rhys, back on the field after a prolonged shoulder injury.
Wauchope's pack for forwards scrummed well against the Bulls, but their backs failed to gain sufficient headway to capitalise on their superiority.
AS expected the front running Manning River Ratz proved too strong for Old Bar Clams in the game at Taree Rugby Park. The Ratz won 71-14.
This sets up a top-of-the-table clash between the Ratz and Wallamba at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday where the Ratz have the opportunity to seal the minor premiership.
"Mathematically Wallamba can still finish minor premiers,'' Ratz coach Jake Maurirere said.
Wallamba's the only team to beat the Taree-based combination this year.
In the other game this Saturday Old Bar will host Forster Tuncurry Dolphins.
Three games remain in the competition proper before the semi-final is played on Saturday, August 14.
Grand final day is Saturday, August 21, with the match to be played at the minor premier's home ground.
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