Pirates and Marlins flare up
THEY didn't win but Southern Cross University turned in one of their better efforts when going down 26-7 to high-flying Port Pirates at Stuart Park.
Tries scored against the run of play were a big help to the home side who ran out to a 21-0 half time lead, only to have their exuberance reeled in during a rowdy second half which Marlins actually won 7-5.
University coach Dave Nicol was thrilled to bits with the effervescent showing.
"Without those two early mistakes from which Port scored, we could have been so much closer and really forced them to the edge," he said.
"Pirates are a real smart outfit and they needed to be today.
"I don't think they expected us to play so well or chase and tackle them so hard."
Tempers flared over the course of the final 40 minutes as Marlins poured on the pressure and referee Michael Tonks had his hands full keeping order during some angry exchanges.
SCU fly half Simon Donald left the field early after being sickened by a late shoulder charge and after a scrap in the dying stages, fullback Josh Rayner found himself cooling his heels in the sin bin.
"It's a pity it ended like that but I'm super proud of how my boys handled the situation and stepped up to the plate," Nicol said.
"It was a real gutsy effort from all the 20 players we ended up using.
"They refused to give up, defended brilliantly, showed great club spirit and proved finally they'll be worthy of taking part in the semi finals if we make it."
Nicol said confidence if now rising for the important local derby with Coffs Rugby next weekend.
"Today was almost as good as a win and makes for an exciting match when we head back to Marlins (Advocate) Park in a couple of days," he said.
Port Macquarie Pirates bt Southern Cross University Marlins 26-7
Coffs Rugby bt Hastings Valley Vikings 17-15
South West Rocks Gaolers bt Kempsey Cannonballs 40-19
Port Pirates bt SCU 43-0
Hastings bt Coffs Harbour Crabs 19-7
Kempsey bt Bowraville Goannas 25-15
Port Pirates bt SCU (no score available)
Kempsey bt Coffs Harbour 24-19