MISSING a slew of regular first graders including the bulldozing Xavier Sullivan and a reinvigorated Daine Laurie it was never going to be an easy task for South Grafton under lights against Woologoolga.
But there is a pride coach Ron Gordon and his Rebels take from their unbeaten record at the fortress McKittrick Park, which now stretches past two-and-a-half years, that meant they were not going to die wondering.
It was the Rebels back row of Austin Cooper, Grant Stevens and Luke Welch who all stood up defiantly for the home side to play the full 80 minutes and charge their way to a grinding 34-18 victory against Woolgoolga.
"Coming in I had two starting front rowers and behind them I had nobody," Gordon said. "If you count them all we were really at sixes and sevens. It really makes this win that much sweeter."
Despite having a mountain of possession at the right end of the field in the first half, Rebels could not manage to put distance between the teams on the board, heading to the sheds at 12-all.
A passionate half-time talk from Gordon fired his troops back into action and it was a second-half double to Cooper as well as tries to fullback Cam Stewart and a silky show-and-go from Kayan Davis that put the full stop on the win.
"Young Aussie Cooper played his first full 80 minutes tonight and he was just impressive," Gordon said. "He was my best on ground tonight, he was awesome and just kept showing up when we needed it."
The best of Cooper's tries came in the dying minutes as the front rower poked his hulking frame through a hole and pinned the ears back to the delight of the Rebels faithful in the stands, who turned out in droves despite the late hour.
"To see (the supporters) here late at night it was something special," Gordon said.
South Grafton gets a chance to continue the unbeaten home run on Sunday when it hosts Col Speed and the Orara Valley Axemen.
SOUTH GRAFTON 34 (A Cooper 2, H Stanley, G Stevens, C Stewart, K Davis, tries; A Taylor 5 goals) def WOOLGOOLGA 18 (B Seymour, A Beatty, AJ Gilbert tries; J Lauder 3 goals).