Wollongbar-Alstonville hooker Gavin Short tries to clean up a loose ball from the line-out in the FNCRU qualifying final match against Lennox Head on Saturday.
Wollongbar-Alstonville hooker Gavin Short tries to clean up a loose ball from the line-out in the FNCRU qualifying final match against Lennox Head on Saturday. MARC STAPELBERG

Trojans build case for title

LENNOX HEAD is the first team through to the FNC rugby union grand final after breezing past Wollongbar-Alstonville 39-3 inthe major semi-final at Williams Reserve, Lennox Head, on Saturday.

The Trojans withstood a Pioneers ambush before running in six unanswered tries to consolidate its dominance over the nearest challenger.

Flanker Harry Witt was outstanding for the premiers, rattling rib cages and scoring a decisive try, while Sam Stewart cut the backline defence to shreds out wide.

The Pioneers' ambush came in the form of a vigorous right-side attack which allowed them to dominate the first 20 minutes – Ben Damen seemingly had the ball on a string with his passing game exceptional.

But when the tide turned and Lennox gained possession and field position, the Pioneers had failed to put points on the board and had wasted their chance to put the favourites in catch-up mode.

Trojans half Adam Gordon opened the scoring with a 48-metre penalty goal and the next time his team had possession Matthew Aherne scored in the corner with Gordon calmly slotting the conversion from the sideline.

The Pioneers received a spate of penalties in attacking position but opted to go for the three points with Lachlan Crockett missing three kickable shots at goal.

Down 10-3 at the break, Wollongbar-Alstonville was still in the match but when Witt steamrolled his way to the try-line early in the second half it was getting ominous.

Stewart started a move inside his own half and finished it with a try, then Gordon grabbed one at the end of a relentless pick-and-drive.

Josh Damen was as dangerous as anyone on the park and also came up with several try-saving tackles at fullback.

Flanker Jeremy Tozer was also tireless for the Pioneers, but the six-speed Trojans seemed to be chugging along in third gear.

Lennox coach Paul Jeffrey viewed the Pioneers as a team under the pump.

“I think the pressure got to them” Jeffrey said. “They came out and said ‘We're going to come to Lennox and do this and do that' and they had a shot early but they sort of lost their way.”

The only negative out of the game for Lennox was a shoulder injury that forced prop Phil Tyler from the field midway through the first half.

But medicos diagnosed the injury as a ‘stinger' and coach Jeffrey insisted his man was fighting fit less than an hour later.

“Phil is fine,” he said.

“He actually came to me with 20 minutes to go and said he wanted to go back on – I said ‘Don't worry about it, mate, we're pretty safe here. Phil will be there on grand final day, for sure.

Tyler and the Trojans have the week off now with Wollongbar-Alstonville needing to regroup ahead of the preliminary final against Ballina at Crozier Field, Lismore.



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