Trojans turn up the heat
THE Lennox Head Trojans wore the Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers down in the heat and the dust of the Far North Coast rugby union minor semi-final at Albert Park, Casino, on Saturday.
Scores were locked nil-all at half-time and the Pioneers scored a couple of quick tries when play resumed, but it was the Trojans who out-lasted their opposition, 27-14.
While Lennox Head was able to call on a fresh bench, Wollongbar-Alstonville had players backing up from reserve grade and in the 30-degree heat, it proved to be a telling factor.
“It just got to the stage where our blokes were so affected by the heat they weren't getting to the breakdown any more, and they were,” Pioneers coach Barry Carpenter said.
“They (Lennox Head) had a fresh bench, whereas we had blokes who had already played a game.
“They just handled the heat better and as the game wore on, they just ran on adrenalin.
“We just folded with the heat; we were just buggered.”
It was the seventh straight win for the Trojans, who are mounting a similar challenge to the one that netted them the premiership last year.
Yet Lennox Head coach Paul Jeffery admitted they went into Saturday's cut-throat semi-final against Wollongbar feeling a little nervous.
“Our boys came across a little bit nervous because we hadn't beaten Wollongbar all year; they've had the wood on us,” he said.
“We said at half-time that the game was going to come down to whoever wanted it the most and that we had to go forward before we went wide.
“They scored the first couple of tries, and we were down 14-3, and then we sort of dug deep and came out to win it.”
Jeffery said the loss of captain Harry Witt, who was suspended for six months on trampling charges in the lead-up to Saturday's game, hadn't been used as a motivating factor.
“It's not something that we spoke about because we were playing semi-final football and if you need motivation to play that sort of football then you shouldn't really be playing,” he said.
“But having Harry run the water and run the messages, they knew he was with them.”
Witt's brother, Joe, was set to replace him in the starting line-up, but he was a late withdrawal due to a niggling knee injury, allowing second-grader Dane Belato to step up to the mark.
Jeffery said Belato had a 'blinder' and also praised stand-in skipper Jamie Tredinnick for his efforts.
“He played a real captain's game. All his talk out there was positive and he really took control,” Jeffery said.
Lennox Head will move on to meet the loser of this Saturday's major semi-final between Ballina and Lismore City at Quays Reserve, Ballina.