North Coffs jumps on preliminary finals epic

THE North Coffs Kangaroos have progressed to the preliminary final with an inspired performance against the Port Macquarie Magpies in an epic encounter at the BCU International Stadium on Saturday.

The finals experience of both sides was showcased in a physical clash that suited the 'Roos, who got the jump on the southerners early in the first quarter. Tyler Ryan kicked the first goal early in the contest to lead his side to a four-goal opening quarter.

Sam Dawes was easily the best on the paddock in another fantastic display, exceptional in the ruck, playing tall in the absence of the Connolly brothers. His presence in the middle helped overcome Port's early burst in the second quarter, as Dean Nankervill and Shannon Skreja formed a dangerous combination.

Jacob Hart won an absorbing duel against Matthew Gleeson down back. While up the other end, Darren Funston, in moving to half-forward, was enigmatic and a great attacking option for the 'Roos. Jordan O'Connor stepped up and played well up the ground to help the 'Roos dominate field position.

Brad Giri was one to take full advantage of these mistakes, pumping the ball forward with regularity. Tom Merrick and Tim Heather provided a lot of run for the 'Roos and also aided their side in attack.

Merrick picked up a hamstring injury in the final quarter which would leave him in some doubt for two weeks' time.

Port captain Matthew Newton appeared to suffer a similar fate but battled on although he was limited in attack after half-time. This prevented his kicking range as he twice failed to make the distance from less than 40 metres out.

North Coffs, after a tight second quarter, came out after half-time and gained a five-goal lead going into the last quarter. To Port's credit, they came hard at the 'Roos and were within two goals with 10 minutes to go but the Kangaroos held on for a tight win.

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