Coffs win in stoppage time


IN a frank admission that deserves to shock the Mid North Coast Zone, Coffs Rugby coach Paul Butcher agrees his team may be no more than a 60/40 chance of winning the grand final if forced to play away from home. When acting as host, Coffs and their guests rarely see more than a couple of dozen stoppages in a game. But on the road, it can be double that, or more. Last Saturday on the lunar landscape that is Taree Rugby Field where the players run through hills and hollows while a haze of ashen dust hangs in the air, Coffs defeated the home side 36-5 in a match marred by 77 stoppages. That's correct - 77. Just count the statistics at the bottom of this page. "Considering the amount of time spent standing around I'm amazed there were seven tries scored between us," a droll Butcher said following a post mortem with match officials. "The start/stop nature of play meant nobody could get much of a roll on." Coffs had a lacklustre start, tending to stargaze at their surroundings as the big Manning River side came out breathing agression before shocking them awake with the opening try. "The long trip, players working till late and a few getting lost on the way to the ground meant we weren't switched on," Butcher said. "But we got up and running and three of the tries came from set plays we're practising for the playoffs." The longer the game continued, the more time Butcher spent pacing the sidelines growing increasingly frustrated by every toot of the referee's whistle. Not that the Ratz received any special favours. They too were hindered when putting pressure on Coffs and called back just as often. "I knew it would be slow and ugly," Butcher groaned. "But 77 stoppages? "That's awful." It's no secret Butcher likes his team to feel the blowtorch to see how they handle pressure. But (Dorrigo excepted) away from Toormina where policing of the laws is fair and minimal, rarely have his charges been tested, thanks largely to a lopsided tally of hold up's helping neither opponent to hit full rhythm. Manning River - big, strong and fast, came out of the blocks on Saturday determined to test the masters of the Zone. Coffs got the money with their edge in class. But what a great shame a game that could have been so joyously spontaneous was turned into dross by pedantry. COFFS RUGBY 36 (Angus Garland 2, Chris Webb, Damien Punch, Rob Ferguson, Mitch Lind tries; Garland 3 conversions) def MANNING RIVER RATZ 5 (Laurence Burdekin try). Scrums: 9-all. Penalties: Coffs Rugby 15-14. Lineouts: Coffs Rugby 26 (9 against the throw), Manning River 4 (1 against the throw). Second Grade: Coffs Rugby bye. Colts: Coffs Rugby 20 d Manning 5

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