By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
HAVING simply blasted teams off the paddock so far this season, Coffs Harbour finally got a taste of hard rugby on Saturday when they overcame a dogged Dorrigo Rangers outfit.
Although the final scoreline of 27-0 suggests that this was another one-sided clash for Coffs Rugby, it wasn't until the final 20 minutes that the the Coffs boys were able to run away from a tiring opponent.
The first half display was that of a team that had played some easy football and had started getting into some bad habits.
The most frustrating aspect for Coffs coach Paul Butcher was the number of times players were left isolated at the breakdown.
"Nobody wanted to get to the cleanout," he said.
"Too often we had players waiting out the back to receive a pass instead.
"In recent games, players have just been able to hit the line and pop the ball.
"It was a bad habit not getting to the cleanout, and it was certainly mentioned at half-time.
It was not until the 20 minute mark that Coffs Harbour scored the only try of the first half.
Paul Gooley, who was dominant all day playing at No.8, was held up over the try line, but broke away from the ensuing scrum down the blindside to crash over for a try.
Gooley's ball carrying ability in loose play was the critical difference between the two sides when it came to moving the ball via the hard yards method.
When hard yards were begging to be made, too often the Coffs side would create a maul, only for the ball to come out of the maul too quickly.
It was the dominance of the Coffs Harbour scrum that was the highlight of the day.
Having the luxury of Matt Hoy returning to the side from NSW Country duties certainly showed, with the home side often screwing the scrum against a Dorrigo pack that were a little deficient in the technicalities of the scrum, failing to get the first hit time and time again.
The return of Hoy did create a problem for Butcher though.
Nick Joyce was moved from tighthead prop to loosehead to accommodate Hoy's return, but Joyce wasn't happy about it.
"Both Matt (Hoy) and Nick (Joyce) want to be the Tighthead, so I guess we'll need to find a loosehead prop," explained the coach.
Having had a few home truths pointed out at half-time, Coffs Rugby hit their straps in the second half scoring three tries.
With the players warming to the more physical rugby being played, the backline started timing their passes and runs a lot better.
Tries to the centre pairing of captain Brendan Hoy and Alex Hulme following on from Paul Gooley's second of the match and suddenly the contest was over.
Having had a fairly soft build-up to the clash, Butcher was relieved that his side came through unscathed on Saturday, as well as getting a taste of the harder football that will be encountered in the upcoming fortnight against Forster and Port Pirates.
"The last proper game we had was three weeks ago, so to get through a hard and aggressive match was a relief," Butcher said.
"There's really just a few little things we need to work on during the week."
COFFS HARBOUR 27 (Paul Gooley 2, Brendan Hoy, Alex Hulme tries; Hugh Campbell 2 cons, Campbell pen goal) d DORRIGO 0
Under 19s: Coffs Harbour d Dorrigo 54-0