Rep star all class as Pioneers raise the bar
THE class of representative five-eighth Ben Damen and the speed of Wollongbar's outside backs reinforced why they are on track to win their sixth Coopers Far North Coast Rugby title in a row.
A shell-shocked Redmen were left to do plenty of soul-searching as the Pioneers barely raised a sweat in a clinical and entertaining 71-22 victory at Lyle Park Wollongbar on Saturday.
The writing was on the wall in the space of ten minutes as the home side raced in three unanswered tries against some questionable Redmen defence.
The carnage continued for the remainder of the first half with the Wollongbar puppet-master pulling the strings for his side to enter the break with a commanding 40-12 lead.
Redmen captain Kyle Hancock gave an honest assessment of his side's loss and added he had no doubts Wollongbar are on another level when it comes to bush rugby.
"What can I say, they're a very good side. Realistically they would be one of the better sides in Country rugby," Hancock said after the game.
"They've played together for a long time and it's hard to defend a side of that quality.
"It won't be the last time they put sixty or seventy points on a side this season.
"When we were on the front foot we looked really good but there was a concern with our one-on-one defence."
The Redmen were brave, but sometimes bravery isn't enough against a side choc-full of game breakers.
Grafton could have easily thrown in the towel but to their credit they fought to the very end, and at times troubled the premiership favourites through the middle third of the field.
"The scoreline might not indicate it, but I thought the effort was there and we improved from last week's game against Bangalow," Hancock said.
"We stuck to the task and tried for the entire eighty minutes and I was very proud of the boys."
It promises to be a mouth-watering contest next round when Grafton are at home to Lennox Head who have been boosted by former Wallaby five-eighth Berrick Barnes and former NSW Country player of the year Sam Stewart at inside centre.
Far North Coast Rugby Union
ROUND 3 RESULTS
Saturday, August 1
Wollongbar Alstonville 71 (Josh Damen 3, Bodi Smith 2, Hamish Mould 2, Sam Jones, James Vidler, Louis Hollman, Daniel Damen, tries, Sam Kerry 8 conversions) d Grafton 22 (Michael Wright, Kyle Hancock, James Hughes, Dom Bullock tries, Kyle Hancock conversion). Half Time: Wollongbar 40 - Grafton 12.
Lennox Head 59 (Mick Muir, Martin McNamara, Lochie Creagh, Dylan McKissock, Sunny Sheather, Hayden Blair, Callum S Jones, Brad Lees, Kel Sheather tries, Berrick Barnes 7 conversions) d Casino 12 (Jayden Torrens, Jacob Dunn tries, Jayden Torrens conversion). Half Time: Lennox 24 - Casino 7.
Ballina 46 (Sam Giltrap 4, Nemani Matirewa 2, Ryan Hamilton, Nathan Groves tries, Sam Giltrap 6 conversions) d Casuarina Beach 26 (Mitch Planten, Kai George, Webb Lillis, Casey Calder tries, Vitori Buatava 3 conversions). Half Time: Casuarina 26 - Ballina 12.
Bangalow 40 (John Turagabeci 2, Blake Neilsen, Liam Mustchin, Will Latham, Vincent Quigley tries, Blake Neilsen 5 conversions) d Lismore 7 (Adam Rodd try, Jack Everingham conversion). Half Time: Bangalow 12 - Lismore 7.
Point Score: Wollongbar 15, Bangalow 13, Casuarina 11, Ballina 11, Lennox 11, Grafton 2, Casino 1, Lismore 0
Mullumbimby 44 d Lismore 12
Lennox 30 d Casino 0
Wollongbar 65 d Grafton 5
Ballina 17 d Casuarina 14
Casuarina 29 d Kyogle 5
Lismore 14 d Mullumbimby 5
Lennox 22 d Casino 0
Ballina 17 d Lismore 10
Evans River 17 v Wollongbar 5
Kyogle 18 d SCU 5
Evans River 31 d Richmond Range 29
Byron Bay 39 v Iluka 0