COFFS WINS RUGBY TITLE
By GREG WHITE
COFFS Harbour grabbed a share of history when they edged out Dorrigo 23-12 in a desperately-fought Mid North Coast zone grand final at Rugby Park, Sawtell, on Saturday.
Not since Port Pirates put four straight premierships together from 1978 has another club side come close to equalling the feat.
And in only one match in those four seasons has the northern powerhouse tasted defeat ? that coming in the first round this year when they stumbled to the Rangers.
"See that big pile of wood behind the tractor shed?" jubilant coach Paul 'Einstein' Butcher asked of nobody in particular.
"We're going to light the fire and party for a week.
"The Rangers made us work for it but victory is sweet."
Coffs bombed three tries in three minutes during the opening exchanges and had even one of these been awarded, the final scoreline might have looked like one-way traffic.
But the men from the mountains ignored the reputation of the blokes down the hill to keep clawing away and with an ounce of luck, may have turned the match.
"We tried hard and kept on trying but in the end, we couldn't make up the leeway," Rangers coach Rod Beaumont said.
"There was a lot of heart and spirit in the side but Coffs were too good."
Dorrigo took a slender lead in the 14th minute when Paul Sheather crossed but Coffs hit back immediately.
Tim Pollard found an edge, only to spill the ball over the line.
A minute later a long pass from Gus Garland to an unmarked Rod Deighton went spiralling into touch.
Then, Kevin Simpson spied a gap opening up close to the line but developed an attack of fumbles as he attempted to ground the ball.
"It gave me a scare," Butcher said, "but we got going again."
Eventually, Deighton touched down two minutes from the break and the conversion gave an 18-7 lead that should have won the game.
But after the resumption, the Rangers kept coming and coming and coming ...
Tim Pollard's try midway through the second half gave breathing space but it was only in the final five minutes that Coffs were finally dominant.
Veteran halfback Brendan Hoy again played a decisive role.
But will he be tempted into another comeback in 2007?
"Not a hope ... talk to my manager," he grinned, pointing to his wife as coach Butcher led his men off to light the celebration bonfire.
COFFS HARBOUR 23 (Brendan Hoy, Rod Deighton, Tim Pollard tries; Angus Garland conversion and 2 penalties) def DORRIGO RANGERS 12 (Paul Sheather, Adam Preedy tries; Bengt Christiansen conversion)
Scrums: Dorrigo 11-8
Penalties: Coffs Harbour 12-11
Lineouts: Coffs Harbour 20 (4 against throw), Dorrigo 14 (2 against throw)
Best Players: Chris Webb, Mitch Lind, Matt Hoy (Coffs Harbour). Steve Guest, Andy Fuller, Brian Guest (Dorrigo).