Evan shines in gloom
FIVE-EIGHTH Evan Hickling added the glitz to a pretty glamourless 26-0 victory by Marist Brothers in the Retravision Northern League elimination semi-final at a drenched Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday. With the rain culling any adventurous ball movement, Brothers knuckled down and let their beefy forward pack dominate. However, Hickling, who split his time between five-eighth and fullback, popped up enough to show he will be a player worth watching in the finals. The young Rams pivot scored one try, kicked three goals, broke the line a couple of times and worked well at second receiver to really give the Brethren attack some spark in the dull conditions. "Evan's played a bit with Casino and Tabulam," Brothers coach David Krause said. "He was with us last year on the wing and fullback, but he adds a whole new dimension at five-eighth." Krause has made Hickling his attack specialist. The Brothers mentor has fullback Mark Sivewright move into the defensive line to relieve Hickling of his tackling duties and then switches the two players in attack, with Sivewright running wide. Hickling looked good, not only because he has plenty of skill, but because his forward pack dominated the ruck. Props Des Maher and Luke Scott, second-rower Luke Campbell and lock Wise Kativerata in particular carved holes in the plucky Byron Bay defence. Their dominance reached such a degree that the Red Devils rarely entered the Brethren's quarter when they had possession. It was the fourth match in a row Brothers had kept a clean defensive scoresheet. "The boys take pride in their defence," Krause said. "They work hard on it at training." Brothers led 10-0 at half-time following tries to winger Niko Vakararawa and centre Dylan Coleman in a competitive 40 minutes. However, a mounting Byron injury toll meant the home team's vice-like grip on the match never wavered throughout the second half. In fact, Red Devils' coach Vince Nicklin couldn't replace a sin-binned player with six minutes remaining because his bench was bare. It meant Byron had only 12 players on the field for the final 16 minutes and the Brethren scored all of their second-half points in this period with further tries to Vakararawa, Hickling and winger Bart Foster. It was a sad way for the Devils to bow out. They have been the competition easybeats for a number of seasons and deserve plenty of credit for making the semi-finals. However, their credit was cashed in on a cold, wet, afternoon by Hickling and his hungry forward pack. MARIST BROTHERS 26 (Niko Vakararawa 2, Dylan Coleman, Bart Foster, Evan Hickling tries; Evan Hickling 3 goals) d BYRON BAY 0. Half-time: Brothers 10-0. Penalties: Byron Bay 9-8. Referee: Troy Martin. Reserve grade: MULLUMBIMBY 32 (Scott Hogan 3, Sam Roberts, Anthony Pentecost, Sean Doherty tries; Mitch Lambert 4 goals) d BYRON BAY 10 (Noel King, Ben Donohoe tries; Chris King goal). Under-18s: TWEED COAST 24 (Adrian Hutton, Travis Cook, Josh Holt, Grant Stevens tries; Strath Johnston 2, Mitch Fredericks 2 goals) d MURWILLUMBAH 10 (Isaac Kniepp, Nick Papadopolous tries; Beau Robertson goal).