Joel ‘Big Woody’ Riddle mowed his opponents down on Saturday.
Joel ‘Big Woody’ Riddle mowed his opponents down on Saturday.

Crushers outsmart the Vikings

MAN mountain Joel Riddle was a major factor in Coffs Crushers upsetting Hastings Valley 23-12 at Coffs Coast Advocate Rugby Park on Saturday.

In arguably his finest performance since switching from the Orara Valley Axemen to the 15-a-side code, the big forward charged head-on into the highly rated rival pack and with more time than usual on the paddock, inspired plenty of confidence among his team-mates.

Right from the start the side oozed enthusiasm and even when the inevitable flat spot arrived, the desire to play structured rugby had already set the pattern for the afternoon.

Captain-coach Craig Landrigan was pleased with the sharp performance but was quick to point out some areas that still need work.

“The Vikings scored against the run of play which came from us off-loading terrible passes,” he said.

“At the half-time discussion we decided not to do that ... just make contact, take a few in and get some form to our game.”

One passage stretching to nine phases was evidence of the superb football that’s in the side when they retain focus.

“That stuff is essential in semi-finals but we’re doing that because our fitness is much better which is the one really big overall improvement,” Landrigan said.

“It has allowed us to carry on with more phase play since we’ve had a fitness trainer helping us out.”

Respect for the opponents was evident when two penalty goals were taken early instead of running the ball and risking spillage.

“The mood was different and from the start we were on our toes,” the coach revealed.

“We’ve had some trying times trying to put the pieces to our play as a unit but today, in the second half, everybody came together and if one man found himself isolated, the whole team arrived to help him out.”

Crushers’ supporters were stunned by the appearance of former Bellingen Magpies rugby league utility Bert Gray who made a good fist of a full game in seconds before his insertion from the bench into the top grade centre position.

“Not bad for my first game of rugby in 15 years,” the amiable Gray said.

Intra-club rivals Coffs Breakers had little trouble brushing aside Kempsey with their 35-13 win just about cementing the reigning premiers position in the top four after a topsy-turvy run in the first half of the season.

Meanwhile, Southern Cross University second grade players are celebrating their maiden victory since coming back into the competition.

The Marlins downed Hastings Valley 34-0 to add to the pain the Vikings were feeling after their ill-fated northern safari.

MNC Zone Scores

First Grade

Coffs Crushers def Hastings Valley Vikings 23-12.

Coffs Breakers def Kempsey Cannonballs 35-13.

Second Grade

Coffs Crabs def Kempsey Cannonballs 28-0.

SCU Marlins def Hastings Valley Vikings 34-0.

Under 19s

Coffs Rugby def Hastings Valley Vikings 43-3.

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