Magpie blitz stuns Northern United
LOWER Clarence Magpies are one step closer to ending their 25-year premiership drought after claiming the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League minor premiership with a stunning come-from-behind 34-28 point victory over Northern United at the Maclean Showground yesterday.
Knocked around in the first half and trailing by 14 points at the break, the Magpies showed all their class and resilience to blitz United four-tries-to-one in the second 40 minutes.
At times brilliant, scrappy, furious, cavalier, brutal and breathtaking, the match lived up to every single one of its promises as the showdown between the league's top two teams.
But the epic encounter had to overcome the stop-start nature built by the incessant shrill of referee Peter O'Connor's whistle.
O'Connor incurred the wrath of both clubs' supporters, signalling 15 penalties, one sin-bin, four forward passes and disallowing three pivotal tries.
But the stoppages failed to halt the flow of points, with United cruising to a 22-8 point fist-half lead.
The Magpies scored first but it was the visitors who took the game by the scruff of the neck with Roy Bell scoring from a well-weighted cross-field bomb.
Halfback Michael Moran, a late inclusion, then gave United the lead before Bell scampered 80 metres to score his second of the game from a Lower Clarence mistake.
Fred Waters scored not long after to push the lead out to 14 points and leave the Magpies in trouble at half-time.
But Waters, not for the first time this year, had some poignant words to say to his troops at the break and Lower re-grouped.
Hughie Stanley, Don Walker and Dan Randall all crossed within the first 10 minutes of the restart for the Magpies and suddenly it was United feeling the pinch as the home team regained the lead.
Brown slotted another penalty goal before he sealed the points with a try under the posts.
Chris Swan put United within six points of a draw, but their late pressure failed to materialise another scoring chance.In other news, a brainstorming effort by young lock Jacob Mayer has highlighted Casino RSM's 28-18 victory over arch rivals Kyogle at Kyogle on Saturday.
Mayer worked the house down in attack and defence according to Casino officials and helped lead the Cougars to their second win over the Bush Turkeys this season in a spiteful match that included three players being sent to the sin-bin.
To cap off a great day for the club, the reserve grade side defeated Kyogle 28-24 which enabled RSM to snatch back the Local Derby Shield.
The Cougars led 10-6 at half-time and tries were traded until young winger Tom Farr scored his second try of the day to put the visitors out to a 10-point lead at 28-18 with 10 minutes remaining.Meanwhile, Mullumbimby has jumped to second place on the competition ladder after a tough 34-16 victory over Ballina at Mullumbimby yesterday.
With United losing to Lower Clarence, Mullum has snared second spot due to a superior for-and-against record and need only to defeat Cudgen next weekend to ensure a home semi-final.
“We're very happy with that but it means nothing if we don't go out and do a job next week,” coach Wayne Cullen said.
“We've got a good opportunity but we need to maintain our hold on the spot.”
Cullen was impressed with his side's attitude against the young and vibrant Seagulls with the Giants only leading 16-10 at half-time before going on with the job in the second half.
In bad news, halfback Chase Nelson (knee) and centre Glen Godbee (thigh) have both suffered injuries which could see them miss a few weeks.
In other matches, the Grafton Rhinos smashed Evans Head 56-14 at Grafton; the Tweed Coast Raiders accounted for Murwillumbah 36-20; and the Grafton Ghosts locked up fifth spot with a 26-12 victory over Cudgen.
Ghosts have a such a superior for-and-against record that even if they lose this week to the Raiders and finish on equal points they will progress to the semi-finals. They could also jump to fourth spot and host a home semi-final if Byron lose to Lower Clarence.