The Wallamba Bulls charged into an early competition lead in the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union premiership with an impressive, come-from-behind 26-17 success against the Manning River Ratz in the Kennards Hire competition on Saturday.
"We led for the first hour, but they finished too strongly," the Ratz's president, Steven Rees, admitted.
"They're always tough. But we showed some really good signs."
Elsewhere, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins enjoyed their bye weekend by celebrating the season's launch at the Bellevue Hotel in Tuncurry, home of their new major sponsor.
Earlier in the week, the Dolphins put behind them fears of a disastrous winter with their most heartening day of the pre-season period when the nucleus of an impressive team trained at Peter Barclay Field in Tuncurry.
Scrummaging strong men such as Mid North Coast Axeman representative loose-head, Aaron Booby, trimmed down to 130kgs following off-season pasturing, canny front rower Neil Flanders, the brains-trust of the pack, explosive-running Mid North Coast (MNC) Axeman representative backrower, Blake Polson, and premiership-winning tight-head, club president, Ben Manning, will make the team a formidable scrummaging unit.
But these stalwarts need more young blood reinforcements, not least a tall, ball-winning line-out specialist such as Jack Woods.
At least, halfback Liam Brady, the consistent, week-in, week-out club performer every team needs, and strong-tackling back, Kaleb Trudgett, are training well.
We led for the first hour, but they finished too strongly.- Manning River Ratz president, Steven Rees
Quietly, centre Jarrod Little is running again after a knee injury threatened his rugby career last year.
He is needed in midfield to ignite sparks in the Dolphins' attack.
Ratz president, Rees was generous in his praise of the performance by club captain-coach, Dave Rees, and of the game by a new club flanker he knew simply as "Cowboy".
The Bulls provided early evidence of being strong challengers this year with their pre-season three tries to one trial defeat of the Ratz at Taree Rugby Park. Coach Daniel Sawyer is harnessing yet another powerful unit at Nabiac.
The Tout brothers, Christopher and Daniel, are an especially formidable attacking unit.
The tragedy of this fascinating competition is that it has been reduced to three clubs with the loss of the Old Bar Cams and the Wauchope Thunder.
Oh, that Gloucester had a men's team with Chris Marchant in charge.
Two big men returning to the Dolphins' forward pack on Saturday are rugged utility, Nigel Pereira, and Colin Harris, probably the best utility player the Dolphins have fielded, either up front in the pack or in the centres.
Work commitments have prevented Harris from training, not that such an imposition was ever a concern in the past.
The Dolphins will host their first-round game of the Kennards Hire premiership against the Ratz this Saturday, May 14 at Barclay Field, Tuncurry.
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