By PAUL CHAMBERS
A GAME of two halves.
Never has a well-used cliche been more appropriate for a game of rugby.
The first half was totally dominated by the Vikings, with a complete turnaround in the second period seeing Coffs finally gain control at the end.
This was a good game of rugby, played in true finals spirit.
Both teams played with heart and passion, pushing each other and the referee to the limit in an attempt to gain the crucial advantage which would see them through to host the grand final.
Hastings won the toss and chose to play with the wind behind them in the first half, a tactic which worked well.
They kicked the ball fairly well, using the wind to good effect to establish strong field position.
But it was their intensity that gave them the advantage that saw them score 15 unanswered points before half-time.
The intensity of their defence knocked Coffs' ball carriers backwards in many tackle situations, and then their own ball carriers took the ball forward with such speed and enthusiasm they drove over the advantage line far too often for the home team's liking.
As a result of this, Coffs could never get onto the front foot and get any sort of continuity into their play.
They had to resort too often to attempting passes that weren't on and forcing the ball, which led to errors and ultimately turnovers.
The biggest effect this had was they then grew frustrated and the more frustrated they became so the 50/50 calls went against them.
Then they vented their anger at the ref and gave away silly penalties, which showed a lack of discipline under pressure.
Turning around with a 15-point deficit to make up would show what Coffs are really made of, whether they had the game and the desire to lift themselves. The result shows the spirit they possess and the second half was a true demonstration of how well they can play rugby.
On the back of an astute kicking game by Hugh Campbell, who cleverly mixed up booming touch finders or box kicks with deft chips over the top, and an awesome display of driving forward play by replacement Paul Gooley, Coffs finally gained the ascendency.
It took a little while because Hastings showed a lot of passion as well, but once Coffs secured enough ball in the right areas of the field there was only going to be one winner.
Paul Butcher, the team's coach, was a happy but relieved man after the game.
"I nearly had a heart attack after that first half, but all credit to our boys. We knew if we used the wind well and kept the pressure on in their 22 we would eventually win the game," he said.
"We were not in the game in that first half and you have to give a lot of credit to them for that, they are a good side and were really fired up for a big win."
Asked what he thought the difference was in that second half, Butcher pointed out a few key factors.
"We needed a spark, something to lift us and when Joycey pulled off his big hits on Tunstead the whole team responded well and stepped up. I also thought Hughie's kicking game was great, kicking the ball 50 or 60 metres on the fly, and Paul Gooley made a huge impact when he came on," Butcher said.
COFFS RUGBY 23 (Nick Joyce, Alex Hulme, Matt Kent tries; Hugh Campbell 1 con. 2 pens.) d HASTINGS VIKINGS 15 (Matt Lockwood, David Barnes tries; Steve Tonkin 1 con. 1 pen.)