By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THERE'S a plethora of big reputation players in the Coffs Rugby line-up that again came to the fore on Saturday during the team's opening match of the season.
It was a group of lesser lights though who do an outstanding job each week that took the cream through during the 88-7 mauling of Old Bar.
The dazzling backline and intimidating front row get most of the plaudits but it was the Coffs back-rowers that shone.
Matt Kent, Mitch Lind and Chris Webb were constantly getting the ball off their opponents at the breakdown to give Coffs tremendous field position to score their 13 tries from.
The trio don't receive the same wraps as the big names in the team probably because of the number of penalties they give away. Coach Paul Butcher used to have the same line of thinking but he's a man who admits that he's changed his tune about the penalties that are conceded.
"It's just eagerness and it always comes from guys like 'Webby' and 'Matty' and guys who love getting their hands on the ball," Butcher said.
"We always can guarantee that we're going to give away probably four or five more penalties than what we actually should because of the hunger for that ball.
"Over the last couple of years I'd probably get up them for that sort of thing but I've come to learn that it's just the way they play and they'll probably steal 10 times as much ball as they give away with penalties."
Aside from giving away nine penalties through the match, Coffs put on an almost flawless display.
"We didn't make that many mistakes," a pleased coach said.
"We had five knock-ons in the first half and I think maybe one in the second half, and there were no forward passes."
The one-sided scoreline suggests that the match was merely a walk in the park for the reigning premiers but Butcher says the final score tells only half the story.
"They let in 13 tries but they were either good and physical in defence or they were really poor," he said.
"They let us run through them or they were really physical, there was no in between. I think it was a lot to do with fitness.
"They'll be a lot better than that and they're probably the best that they've been over the last couple of years even though the score may not show that."
Always a hard taskmaster, Butcher knows that there is improvement in the team still to come.
Most of that should come from the players who know there is pressure on them to retain their spots in the starting line-up, particularly with Hugh Campbell, Leith Vaughn and Gus Garland pushing for a call up to the run-on side.