It?s magpie season

A BANNER pinned to the fence at the southern end of Port Macquarie's Hastings Regional stadium on Sunday proclaimed magpie season had arrived. It proved to be an apt summation of the VB Group 2 Under-18s grand final, with Bellingen Valley-Dorrigo Magpies dive-bombing Nambucca Heads Roosters to win 16-14. Both sides were guilty of poor ball control, meaning defence was the key to the battle of the birds. The big hits started in the first tackle of the game when three Nambucca forwards crunched the Bellingen ball-carrier. That set the tone for a fierce encounter, which was still open for the taking in the final 60 seconds of play. Bellingen co-coach Declan Horan wasn't exactly happy with his side's effort, but was proud to claim the title. "There was probably a bit too much dropped ball, we didn't get to halfway like we can," Horan said. "It was a scrappy sort of a game... it wasn't well structured. "But Nambucca's defence deserves credit, they put us under a lot more pressure than any other side has this year." Bellingen coughed up possession inside their own quarter three times in the first half, but their unyielding defence meant they didn't pay the ultimate price and went to the sheds leading 12-10. "We hadn't played that well and we were still in front at half time," Horan admitted. "But our defence was excellent. "Bo Taggart was phenomenal and Daniel Tempest had a huge game, he saved his best for last." Nambucca coach Anthony Field conceded dropped ball at crucial stages cruelled his side. "They scored off our mistakes and we did the same to them," Field said. "We knew at half time we had to minimise our mistakes... we dropped a lot of ball when we should have been setting for a kick." Field was critical on Bellingen's go-slow tactics. "Bellingen did what we knew they would do, they slowed us up at the play-the-ball," he said. "It definitely nullified our momentum and I could see how frustrated the boys were getting." Field said the young Roosters will improve from Sunday's experience. "You can't put old heads on young shoulders, but we will be better for the experience," he said.

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