Wollongbar centre Arlo Cluff takes a tackle while running the ball against Lismore City on Saturday.
Wollongbar centre Arlo Cluff takes a tackle while running the ball against Lismore City on Saturday. MARC STAPELBERG

Rivals slug it out

IT’S not often you find a coach stuck for words, but Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers mentor Barry Carpenter struggled to find a way to describe his team’s dour 14-7 home win against the Lismore Greens at Lyle Park on Saturday.

All he could come up with was the term ‘slugfest’ to summarise the hard-fought match played out between two Far North Coast rugby union finals aspirants.

Carpenter blamed the lacklustre nature of the game on the series of byes the Pioneers have had since playing their previous game against Southern Cross University back on July 10.

“Look, it was just a pretty hard match,” Carpenter said.

“We came off two weeks of byes and that hasn’t really helped our momentum.

“It was a good forwards struggle and it was really just one hard slog.

“There wasn’t a great deal of difference between the teams and Lismore just dug deep, like they usually do.”

The Pioneers scored one forwards’ try through No 8 Steve Mison and one backs’ try courtesy of outside centre Tim Perkins.

“They came back with a converted try, but I was glad with the way my guys dug in strongly and held them out,” Carpenter said.

“It was a hard slog, but we probably pipped them in the backs a bit.”

Carpenter said it had been a game where ‘everyone played well’ but praised the efforts of young colts Shaun Ellis and Jason Higgins, who came into the side for Michael Wilson and Braeden Slattery.

Lesson for students

THE Pioneers/Greens match was the only close result of the round, with the Lennox Head Trojans keeping their unbeaten run going with a 52-5 shellacking of SCU at Williams Reserve. The win put Lennox Head clear at the top of the ladder.

In order to keep his side fresh and competitive in the run home to the finals, Trojans coach Paul Jeffrey made several ‘rotational’ changes to his starting side and it seemed to have the right effect.

“In total we had seven regular first-graders not playing for one reason or another,” Jeffrey said.

“The rotation system will keep a lot of pressure on spots and it will come down to performance.”

Whether it is superstition or not, the Trojans are not talking about their lengthy winning streak, lest they jinx themselves.

“If we start talking about what we have done in the past, we will lose sight of what we want to achieve in the future and we want to set the bar even higher,” Jeffrey said.

“We looked at it four weeks ago, and that’s why we have this rotation system, because you can’t expect people to play 80 minutes and give 100 per cent week in, week out – it just doesn’t happen in country footy.

“We don’t want anyone getting too comfortable in their position and through this internal club pressure it is going to make us better.”

Jeffrey praised second rower Jaysen Thompson, who was elevated from the reserves and played an ‘absolute blinder’, and hooker Jamie Tredinick, who had his ‘best game of the season’.

Hard in the heat

THE Casino Bulls scored a memorable 41-17 victory over Grafton considering they had five first-grade players backing up after a run in the reserves and two Under-19s who played all three games on a hot afternoon at Albert Park.

Bulls coach Darren Winkler said the front row of Reece Manning, Craig Connolly and Joey Mohammed had generated a strong platform for the backs to run, with captain and outside centre Luke Serone scoring two tries.

Next week the Trojans will don pink jumpers against the Bulls to raise awareness and money for women’s breast cancer research.

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