Coffs Rugby unbeaten no longer
COFFS Rugby's unbeaten run in 2012 is over following today's 34-29 loss to arch rival Port Macquarie at Coffs Coast Advocate Rugby Park.
While the winning margin was narrow, there's no question Pirates were masters of the field and the victory makes up for the game they should have won ... the night match on June 12 when a try was allowed following a knock-on, letting Coffs off the hook with a draw.
The home side recorded three tries to two in the opening session, primarily because Pirates failed to kick on the back of the raging southerly heading in the same direction as they were.
Maybe they didn't need to as the southern side oozed confidence.
Fortunately, Coffs pulled out of the slump and a converted try levelled scores for intermission to make it 17-all.
By this stage the general opinion was all Coffs needed to do in the second half was kick with the wind, force the game into Pirates' red zone and them work them over when mistakes were made.
But theories don't always work out, much to the dismay of coach Geoff Mould who admitted post-match the writing had been on the wall even before the match began.
"That was our worst exhibition of rugby in two years," he said.
"We've had a terrible week preparing for this game with people pulling out, right up until the morning of the match when we lost Mika Kama.
"Needless to say, changes have to be made."
So ... what changes?
Attitude, certainly, as a side as classy as Pirates won't be beaten by just turning up to face them.
Sticking to the game plan is always helpful, especially if it demands kicking with the wind when you are trying to keep the opponents from scoring.
"Surely, we can't play like that again with little confidence and so much hesitation," Mould said.
"I felt it last night when I was having a drink at the pub when I said to people 'I can feel us getting beaten for the first time tomorrow' and that's how it turned out.
"All week the attitude has been wrong.
"We turned the ball over, forwards were slow and we weren't getting to the breakdown ... just appalling."
There was a minor sensation early in the second half when referee Andrew Birch awarded Dylan Hurley a penalty try and the home side took the lead.
Pirates began to look disjointed with halfback Tim Boyle forced on and off the field to receive attention for a cut above the eye but the hovering presence for the victors was their masterful No 10, Sam McNeill.
He must have been covered in death adders, so reluctant was Coffs to halt his progress and put him on the turf.
If there was one diversion from the game plan which particularly aggravated coach Mould, that was it.
"They were given instructions to get up on top of him and I wonder if we managed to tackle him once," he said.
"They didn't play to instructions when I said I wanted the ball put down on Port's posts.
"When Pirates forgot to use the wind in the first half, there was the signal flashing at us not to do the same.
"And what did we do?"
McNeill wasn't the only star visitor with classy fullback Tim Platt continually breaking the first line on kick returns and the tight five working overtime in defence and at the breakdown.
Pirates raced in three tries to steal a march and while Paul Butcher went over in the dying seconds (to claim a hat trick for the day) there wasn't enough time to get underway again to seek another miracle escape.
"That loss will do us the world of good and bring the team back to earth, so I guess it's not all bad news," Mould added.
"I'm not going to say too much to them tonight.
"I'll save it for training."
PORT MACQUARIE PIRATES 34 (R Owens C Geary J Riddle L Bassett J Babbidge tries S McNeill 3 conversions and a penalty) bt COFFS RUGBY 29 (P Butcher 3 D Hurley 2 P Butcher 2 conversions)
At Coffs Coast Advocate Rugby Park, Toormina
Referee: Andrew Birch
Other First Grade
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Coffs Harbour Crabs bt Port Macquarie 26-10
SCU bt Kempsey 24-12
Hastings Valley bt Bowraville Goannas 36-7
Coffs Rugby bt Port Macquarie 17-10
Kempsey bt SCU 20-10