KURT Lewis returned to rugby league from an enforced layoff to score three tries for Old Bar Pirates in the 32-16 win over Wingham in Group Three match at Old Bar.
Lewis's treble proved decisive in the home side's hard earned victory. While the final scoreline looks like a relatively comfortable day for the Pirates, it was anything but.
The makeshift Wingham side, minus locked down captain-coach Mick Suillivan and with players filling in out of position, were in front 12-8 at halftime and increased this to 16-8 early in the second half. Led by herculean efforts from front rowers Aaron Groom and Jackson Mullen the Tigers were punching holes in the Old Bar defensive line. Old Bar's attack failed to click and frustration was starting to show.
However, the second half drinks break did the trick for the Pirates.
"They scored 20 points in the last 20 minutes,'' Wingham's assistant coach Paul Lewis lamented at fulltime.
"We let it slip in that last quarter. We were on top there until then. It was the same last week against the Sharks, we just haven't finished 'em off when we should have.''
We let it slip in that last quarter. We were on top there until then. It was the same last week against the Sharks, we just haven't finished 'em off when we should haveWingham assistant coach Paul Lewis
The Tigers were up 16-8 when fullback Brodie Myer fumbled a high Old Bar kick and it was regathered by the Pirates, the ball shooting to centre Drey Mercy, who scored under the sticks for Michael Bailey to land the conversion. From there it seemed inevitable the Pirates would win. Soon after a great ball from Daniel Dumas saw Mercy again in flight and he offloaded to fullback Joel Minihan, who looked try-bound.
Wingham hooker Mitch Collins had other ideas and grassed the fullback in a fine try saver. The Tigers were still short on the left and the ball spun to Lewis, who used his strength to crash over for an unconverted four pointer.
Jordan Worboys added two tries for the Pirates and his brother, Isaac, one as the clock wound down. Regular goal kicker Danny Russell spent all but 13 minutes on the interchange bench and the Pirates used three kickers in his absence. They only finished with two goals.
There's a few blokes in our side who haven't played a lot of footy this year, so if we can get a few games under our belt it will be a good sign moving forwardOld Bar captain-coach Mick Henry
Lewis hasn't played since August 2019 when he was sent off playing for Wingham in a minor semi-final against Wauchope and subsequently suspended for nine games. Due to a year off in 2020 because COVID-19 and games postponed because of wet games this season, the suspension didn't end until last week.
Playing centre Lewis was in for his first try after just six minutes and his second late in the first half when he accepted a long pass from Jordan Worboys to get outside the defence.
"Kurt's a very strong ball runner on that edge. He gives us more strike, with Drey (Mercy) on one side and Kurt on the other, it's pretty handy to throw them the ball and watch them go,'' Old Bar captain-coach Mick Henry said.
"He's a very good acquisition.''
Isaac Worboys was also on the comeback trail after recovering from a broken jaw sustained in the opening game of the season. He played in the back row and turning in a solid effort.
"There's a few blokes in our side who haven't played a lot of footy this year, so if we can get a few games under our belt it will be a good sign moving forward,'' Henry added.
The performance of four front rowers, Groom and Mullen from Wingham and Old Bar's Jared Wooster and Dumas highlighted the game. Groom, Mullen and Wooster all had high work rates, while the veteran Dumas produced some quality offloads.
"I said at the start of the year that it would take Dan a few games to get going. He's an old fella and he hasn't done much training,'' Henry said.
"He's very strong in the middle and a good leader for us as well.''
Rugby union convert Brennan Murray at lock was another Tigers to power through plenty of work in attack and defence and he scored a determined try in the first half.
Wingham led 12-8 at the break via tries to Fletcher Lewis and Murray and two conversions to Michael Rees.
Rees started and finished a movement for Wingham after the resumption when he was given space down the touchline then centre kicked. The ball was jolted from Minihan in a tackle and sent to Rees and the centre was unopposed.
However, he missed the conversion, making it 16-8 with half an hour left. That's how it stayed until Old Bar's 20 minute onslaught to finish proceedings.
Old Bar 32 (K Lewis 3, J Worboys 2, I Worboys, D Mercy tries, M Bailey, J Minihan goals) defeated Wingham 16 (F Lewis, B Murray, M Rees tries, M Rees 2 goals).
Reserve grade: Wingham 22 d Old Bar 6
Under 18s: Old Bar 38 d Wingham 18
League tag: Wingham 18 d Old Bar 4