Coffs crush Pirates
By PAUL CHAMBERS
FOR 25 minutes the Mid North Coast rugby clash between Coffs Harbour and Port Pirates at Coffs Rugby Park on Saturday was a real contest.
The two teams were locked in a tense struggle for possession, territory and forward domination.
The Port Pirates had taken the field fired up and ready to play and showed real determination in defence and in the early forward exchanges.
For once it appeared that the crowd and the Coffs players were in for a much anticipated, and needed, close game.
However, appearances can be deceptive.
Once again Coffs Harbour ran out winners by a huge margin, crossing for eight tries to nil, as they tore apart a fragile and injury hit Pirates defence, scoring 26 points in a devastating last quarter to win 47-0.
The difference between the two teams by the end of the game was a huge contrast from the way in which the game started.
Coffs kept on getting better and better and scoring points at will in almost every attack, in stark contrast to Port who looked jaded, unfit and disjointed in all facets of play.
A lot of credit must go to the home team who stuck rigidly to their game plan throughout the match.
At times Coffs were probably got a bit too excited with the ball in their hands as they started really dominating their opponents forcing a few too many passes which were not on.
Coach Paul Butcher was full of praise for all of his team after the game while also sounding an ominous warning to their rivals in this competition.
"Much credit must go to our guys today as we had trained hard for this game and put a plan together to help us win it, and they stuck to that plan today even when the score started blowing out," Butcher said.
"Although this was supposed to be a close game against one of our biggest challengers and we won it so easily I think we are only playing to 95 per cent of our potential at the moment, so we still have room for improvement."
When asked what he felt the key ingredient in his team's performances of late has been, Butcher was very quick to praise the balance of new and old and the great combinations his players were creating.
"The forwards and backs are combining so well at the moment, and it is really enjoyable for me, and our supporters, to see the perfect balance between the youth and experience in our back line," Butcher said.
Possession and territory were the aspects of play Coffs needed to dominate in order to turn the game in their favour after that initial 25 minute period of deadlock was over and it was their forward power which achieved this for them.
They won all of their own lineout ball and 75 per cent of Port's and also dominated the scrums by convincingly driving the Port scrum back off their own ball in four consecutive scrums at the end of the first half.
If one player stood out in this passage of play it was Connor Barrett, who made the lineout ball his own by winning all of the Port throw-ins himself during a 10 minute period towards the end of the first half.
"We had a lot of fun today," Barrett said.
"This was the culmination of weeks of preparation and we did everything correct, our set moves worked well and we had a lot of forward play with some great pick and drives, rucking and mauling.
"It was also another great defensive performance, we didn't really give them a sniff of scoring which was really good."
That must be the most formidable part for any team who are preparing to play Coffs.
They are scoring points galore and will always do so, but they also never look like conceding any points as their individual and team defence is so strong.
Only when a team works out a way to break down their defence and score some points will Coffs be put under any pressure, and then we might see them in a real contest.
Coffs Harbour 47 (Connor Barrett 2, Alex Hume 2, Nick Joyce, Nathan Smith, Paul Gooley, Chris Webb tries; Hugh Campbell 2 con, pen) d Port Pirates 0.
Under 19: Coffs Harbour 41 (P France 2, J Morton, B Ralph, P Nichoffs, J Victoria, T Pollard tries; W Dean 3 conv) d Port Pirates 0.