A grand day for Woolgoolga Seahorses
WOOLGOOLGA are first team into this year's VB Group 2 decider after creating history with their thrilling 34-22 major semi-final defeat of Orara Valley at Coramba Coliseum yesterday.
After competing for around seven decades in North Coast rugby league the Seahorses have never hosted a grand final and while early records are sketchy, it's believed the club has never won the coveted championship title.
Their last grand final appearance was the heavy loss to Nambucca Heads in 1992 but successful Coach Darren Leaney is already putting the brakes on any thoughts of getting carried away with the sense of occasion.
“Orara have had an interrupted preparation, they may have taken us lightly which worked in our favour but we have to improve our handling errors if we want to win this title,” he said.
The Seahorses scored first but slackened off and then were forced to hunt down Orara's lead, just as the Axemen looked set to claim the ascendancy.
But once Tim McManus had crossed just before the break, then made it a double soon after the resumption, the smell of an upset was in the air.
The home side made their customary late rush and scored the last try but by then, the bird had long been and gone.
While disappointed, coach of the minor premiers Darryl Fisher said he needs his side 'to be healthy' when they attempt to bowl over Port Macquarie next Sunday, to earn another crack at the side that's proved their nemesis all season.
“The boys were off their game and a bit underdone...maybe that lack of momentum hurt us,” he said.
Fisher was referring to the soft win over the Broncos and a week with their feet up creating an absence of the body contact needed at this time of year.
“We've got a week to get that intensity back and I know we can do it,” he added.
Woolgoolga were just too hungry, too enthusiastic and in the end, much too good.
But ever the hard taskmaster, Leaney is already seeking the little improvements that will give his side the edge on September 7th.
“We've created a very tight unit – everybody has become good mates on and off the field – and while we stay that way, we'll take some beating,” he said.
“Another factor is being unbeaten at home all year and that has to play on the mind on whoever gets through to play us.
“I don't want anybody to worry about what the others do, but to stay focused on our job and try to stick to the basics.”
WOOLGOOLGA SEAHORSES 34 (Tim McManus 2, Wade Gerhard, Will Fernando, Rob Toshack, Sam Sinclair tries; Drew Vines 4, Adam Close goals) def ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 22 (Matt Cheeseman, Jason McGrady Jr, Paul Tomlinson, Des Teale tries; Scott Lacey 3 goals).
Scrums: Woolgoolga 7-4.
Penalties: Woolgoolga 8-7.
Errors: Orara Valley 7, Woolgoolga 4.
Reserve Grade: Coffs Harbour def Orara Valley 20-14.
Best Players: Wade Gerhard, Rob Toshack, Sam Sinclair (Woolgoolga). Toa Nikora, Jason McGrady Jr, Dan van der Donk (Orara Valley).
Under 18s: Sawtell def Port Macquarie 20-18.