Gold Rats get on the board
SOUTHERN Cross University has got the monkey off its back after winning its first game since 2017 in Far North Coast rugby union on Saturday.
The Gold Rats had a horror run last season but have been competitive in most of their games this year.
Five-eighth Will Hawkins slotted a penalty goal from 40m out in the dying minutes to seal a hard-fought 22-19 win over Casino at Crozier Field, Lismore.
Front-rower Jake Creagh has been the only new addition of note this season while it was the first win for SCU coach Harry Witt.
"Our goal this season was to be competitive in every aspect of the game, from the restart to the breakdown contest and the set piece,” Witt said.
"We've been competitive in every game but closing out the win has been the last hurdle we haven't been able to get over so this was big for us.
"We were getting beaten by cricket scores last season and people wanted the club to drop out of first grade so we've made up an incredible amount of ground on the rest of the competition in just a few months.
"The most satisfying part is that it's 95 per cent the same players from last year.
"These guys all committed to work harder and push each other to improve and now they're seeing the fruits of that labour.”
Witt has been part of premiership-winning sides at Lennox Head and grew up playing juniors at Lismore.
He was one of the most consistent players in the competition for several years before retiring with a knee injury last season.
"I've never seen anything like the positive vibe and close bond that these guys have,” Witt said.
"They're a band of brothers off the field and now it's starting to show on the field.
"Now we've got to refocus and set our sights on the next win and hopefully go on a run.”
The Gold Rats have a tough road trip against a Grafton side stinging from a 43-37 loss against Lennox Head at home on Saturday.
SCU then plays Lismore and Bangalow, which are both games they can win.
The club also has its 50th anniversary on July 13.