Double blow ends Dolphins' chances
THE Far North Coast Dolphins representative rugby union season was dealt an early blow with a 39-3 demolition by NSW Country champions Newcastle Hunter at Nelson Bay on Saturday night.
The Dolphins matched stride with the champions for more than half-an-hour but a double blow on either side of half-time cruelled their chances.
Trailing just 10-3 and looking likely, the Dolphins were dealt their first setback when scrum-half Adam Gordon was felled with a late shot and succumbed to a sternum injury in the shadows of half-time.
Then, just moments after the break, back-rower Mick Muir was sin-binned for hands in the ruck.
Newcastle Hunter turned to their book of set-plays and ran in three tries to take the game away while FNC was undermanned.
FNC coach John Jenkins was disappointed with the result but not the performance.
“We defended really well as a team, but when you are reduced to 14 men it is hard to keep them out; they are a good side,” Jenkins said.
“They really attacked us when we were a man down and we lost all momentum and couldn’t turn it around.”
Jenkins was impressed with the way his new-look team created chances, but disappointed with the final execution – they failed to cross for a five-pointer.
“We mounted some good pressure and got through a few holes but couldn’t capitalise on our own good work,” he said.
Newcastle Hunter’s first try came from a counter-attack on a kick that failed to find touch.
Considering that, and a missed FNC penalty goal just before half-time, the Dolphins could have led 6-3 at the break.
“At half-time we were probably unlucky not to be in front,” Jenkins said.
“We played some good rugby but I guess the killer instinct will come with more time playing together.”
The coach and the squad will take plenty from the match, their first real hit-out as a team.
They will now play New England in the second-tier Richardson Cup and Jenkins has some serious unfinished business.
“We need to win these last two games and finish towards the top end of the bottom half of the table,” he said.
“This business of finishing eighth and then having to play the champions first up next year is just not on.”
FNC has key players returning from injury for the final two games, which will be played at Belmont, in Newcastle, this Saturday and Sunday.
The FNC Under-20s also lost to Newcastle Hunter, 43-12, after trailing 21-5 at half-time.