Coffs Harbour's English import Ben Parkinson took no offence with British opponents after a head clash with fellow countrymen needed repairs on the run.
Coffs Harbour's English import Ben Parkinson took no offence with British opponents after a head clash with fellow countrymen needed repairs on the run. Leigh Jensen

Coffs Comets v BARLA battle was frenetic and ferocious

NOT since Lancaster smashed York in the 1485 grand final at Bosworth Field has there been such a dust-up involving the Poms.

The visit by the British Amateur Rugby League XIII to play a Coffs Harbour team fielding five England imports could easily have been an anti-climax to the Comets' stunning Group 2 premiership victory.

Instead the tourists just managed to scrape home 16-12 after a try to Danny Lynch broke a deadlock with eight minutes remaining.

The match was a cracker.

It was every bit as thrilling as the Lions' last Coffs Harbour visit in 1998 when they played a North Coast Indigenous invitational side.

Some of the attacking raids were extraordinary, not to mention the big hits in defence that had the crowd holding its breath.

There was no mucking around by those involved and that didn't surprise Coffs coach Colin Speed.

"I predicted they would come out with good structure and play like a professional side," he said.

"The other thing was how proud I am of my blokes.

"After playing the grand final two weeks ago they could have coasted and not mentally turned up for this one.

"I thought we went pretty well."

After a fortnight of celebrations, the Comets would have been forgiven for going through the motions.

Despite four changes to the premiership-winning side including the loss of skipper Andrew Smith - John Mackay Medallist (and Englishman) Sean Gilmore was honoured with the captaincy - the home side made all the running and led 6-4 at the break.

The pace of both sides was frenetic, contributing to handling blunders that saw both sides bomb try-scoring opportunities.

The highlight was a breathtaking 75m run around the park by BARLA winger Tom Moorby that would have ranked the season's top try by a country mile had not the final pass gone to ground inches from the line.

Not to be outdone, replacement hooker Lachie Miller had a golden period through the middle stages where the opposing side needed all hands on deck to keep him from tearing their defensive patterns to pieces.

And then there was the defence.

Hard, old-fashioned, knock 'em down and take-no-prisoners rugby league tackles that had opponents openly patting each other on the backs with no hard feelings.

Only in the latter stages did the toll of celebrations slow the Comets down and allow the British lads to grab the ascendancy purely through fitness.

"I guess there must be some relief in the Pommy side and they would be glad to get out of here with a win," Speed laughed.

"They were talking it up that they might beat us by 20 or 30 (points).

"With a couple of the boys missing we toughed it out to make it a great spectacle."

BRITISH AMATEUR RUGBY LEAGUE LIONS 16 (Scott Lofthouse 2, Richard George, Danny Lynch tries) def COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 12 (Michael Meadows, Abel Lefaoseu tries; Nathan Curry, Lachie Miller tries)
Scrums: Coffs Harbour 13-9
Penalties: BARLA 11-9
Errors: Coffs Harbour 9, BARLA 6
At Geoff King Motors Park, Coffs Harbour
Referee: Nathan Grace; Touch judges: Ken Hoad and Lenny Duroux.



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