Former NRL winger Nathan Blacklock in action for Group 19.
Former NRL winger Nathan Blacklock in action for Group 19. Marc Stapelberg

Byron centre helps Rivers to easy win

A THREE-TRY effort by centre Clarence Kelly helped Northern Rivers blitz Group 19; 60-26 in the Centenary NSW Country Rugby League Championships at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, on Saturday.

Kelly and his backline co-horts ran roughshod over Group 19 who boasted former NRL players Nathan Blacklock, Jason Ferris and Anthony Kaberry.

The locals scored 11 tries and all of them were scored by backs with only lock Andrew Moroney posting one for the forwards.

Blacklock eventually managed to score two tries from fullback for Group 19 but it was the first half effort by the Northern Rivers team that had coach Jamie O'Connor happy.

"We were up 34-0 at half-time," O'Connor said.

"I was really happy with that and we played some good footy.

"Basically I don't think they coped from the start with our up-tempo type of footy.

"They weren't up to it in regards to fitness and we threw the ball around pretty well."

Marist Brothers centre Wilo James was a late addition to the starting side after Grafton's Aaron Hartmann withdrew with injury.

But it didn't hurt Rivers and James managed to score a try.

Fullback Shannon Murphy (Cudgen) and prop Buddy King (Tweed Coast) were the pick of the home team according to O'Connor.

It was a good first hit out for Rivers considering Group 19 had played two matches to progress to this stage.

Northern Rivers now take on Illawarra at Dubbo this Saturday in a semi-final.

The other semi-final will see Newcastle take on Monaro.

Both matches will be played at the same venue allowing selectors a good chance to run their eye over players for the NSW Country squad.

NORTHERN RIVERS 60 (Clarence Kelly 3, Glen Slockee 2, Willo James, Shannon Murphy, Ben Crawford, Willie Hammond, Andrew Moroney, Chad Grant tries; Willie Hammond 8 goals) d GROUP 19 26 (Nathan Blacklock 2, Fred Waters, Rodney Bull, Dan Vidler tries; Fred Waters 3 goals) at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.


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