Costly loss cuts deep
SATURDAY'S results hurt in more ways than one for the Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers, who not only dropped a place on the Coopers Far North Coast rugby union ladder, but were left with several additions to an already long injury list.
Coolangatta-Tweed's convincing 43-17 win over the Pioneers saw Wollongbar-Alstonville drop from third to fourth on the ladder.
To add injury to insult, key back Ben Damen was knocked out in the opening minutes of the game and captain Matt Scott was forced from the field with a head wound that was described as 'bucketing blood'.
Pioneers coach Barry Carpenter was left lamenting the costs of his team's loss and the mounting injury toll in what will be a tough run home to the finals.
“It's always disappointing to lose like that, but it's the injuries we have sustained that is a bit more worrying. Hopefully, we can overcome those in the next couple of weeks,” Carpenter said.
“We went into the game with an under-strength team because of injuries, but there are no excuses - Tweed wanted to win and they set about doing what they had to.”
A punch-up in the second half saw three players sin-binned for 10 minutes apiece, but by then the game had already been decided.
According to Coolangatta-Tweed coach Mark Iannelli, the six-tries-to-three romp was borne out of tactics the Pioneers had used against them in their previous encounter.
“Last time they scored a couple of tries on us down the blindside and we wanted to counteract that, so we hit it up the blindside ourselves and we found some space,” he said.
“It was a very important game for us we knew it was pretty much make or break for us to stay up the top of the ladder.
“I can't speak highly enough of the way the boys went about this match.
“Considering we had to chop and change the line-up on Thursday, had players making the step up to the firsts from the lower grades and then had a bout of 'flu hit us, it really shows the commitment and determination within the team and the club to feature in the finals this year.”
The preparation leading up to this game was far from ideal for the Tweed side, with a number of regular backline players out due to injury or other commitments.
However, that didn't seem to matter with an impressive display, led by lock Tamati Coates in the forwards.
With only two rounds left in the regular season, the bonus point win sees Tweed just two points behind Lennox Head, who have a bye coming up, and one point clear of fast-finishing Lismore.
Lismore has leap-frogged Wollongbar-Alstonville into third place on the ladder and made it that much tougher for them to make an impact on the finals from fourth position.
“Our aim at the moment is just to get a full team on the paddock,” Carpenter said.
“We've got some tough games against Ballina and another against Lennox in the last rounds and we've really got to win them if went want to go all the way through to the semis.
“Any one of the four teams in semis can win it all, we've just got to get our best team back from injury.”
LISMORE responded to the wanton destruction of its clubhouse by vandals recently in the best possible fashion with a thumping 54-0 win over Yamba on the weekend.
As reported in The Northern Star last week, vandals broke in and wrecked the club's facilities at the end of Rugby Road in Lismore on the nights of July 27 and 28.
Although nothing was stolen, about $20,000 to $30,000 damage was done by vandals who wrecked priceless memorabilia, including trophies and photos.
While Saturday's nine-try win won't bring any of the damaged goods back to life, it will be a morale-booster for the club which was affected badly by the break-in.