Not good enough
COFFS RUGBY 60
MANNING RIVER 12
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
A SMASHING 60-12 victory for Coffs Rugby was a big confidence boost for the local side but according to coach Paul Butcher, as impressive as the final scoreline was, it could have been even better.
"It was an excellent performance and everything went well," Butcher said.
"But there were 24 turnovers becuase we'd break the line easily enough but then we'd try and pop a pass that brought us undone.
"I got into the boys at half time about it but it didn't make any difference.
"I suppose it's difficult sometimes when it's almost a game of touch footy."
The most pleasing aspect for the Coffs team was the form of their captain, Brendan Hoy, at scrum half.
Hoy had the Manning defence at sixes and sevens as he had the luxury of having Paul Gooley and Matt Hoy making easy yards one pass off the ruck with pick and drives as well as a backline that was cutting holes through the Manning backs.
"The backline was pretty snazzy," the coach admitted.
"And the form of Brendan at halfback was pretty good."
Hoy's sterling form in recycling the ball will probably now give Butcher a few selection headaches leading up to the finals.
Buster McCowatt has been the halfback all year for the team but his absence at the weekend gave Hoy a chance to shine and he grabbed it with both hands.
Butcher now needs to make a choice between the two, just like he needs to do with the fly-half position as he chooses between teenage pair Hugh Campbell and Nathan Smith.
The coach was looking forward to testing both the prospective five-eighths on Saturday but the second half contest didn't eventuate.
"Nathan Smith came off the ground about 10 minutes after half time," Butcher explained.
"He had to go up to Queensland as he's playing in the NSW Country School's team with Duncan Chubb.
"They'll be missing for the next two weeks.
"In the long run though we need to work what combination we want before the finals start."
If there is one area that Butcher is having no headaches about it is the forwards.
Along with the easy pick-and-drive yards, the Manning scrum was no match for that of Coffs.
Coffs also dominated any line-outs with Craig Landrigan shining in these areas to gain three votes for the match.
Not all was golden though on Saturday for the undefeated team.
Number eight Paul Gooley limped off the field towards the end of the match with a calf injury that looks likely to keep him out of action for two or three weeks.
Gooley has been a key player for the team all year using his robust size to advantage to break the advantage line and will be sorely missed with important matches against Dorrigo, Forster and Port coming up to finish the season.
Butcher also had a word of warning about Manning.
"They've certainly improved since the last time we played them," he said.
"We've let through only 40 points all year and they put 12 on us with two tries on Saturday.
"We were a step above them but they're not too bad a team."
COFFS RUGBY 60 (Angus Garland 2, Nick Joyce, Matt Hoy, Craig Landrigan, Connor Barrett, Hugh Campbell, Nathan Smith, Kevin Simpson, Matt Timmins tries; Hugh Campbell 5 conv) d MANNING RIVER 12 (Tim Elliott, Peter Fry tries; Glen Mathiske conv).