Roosters and Panthers tip big names over in Group 2 upsets
COACH Peter Barrett has rarely been as excited as when Nambucca Heads delivered an incredible 22-18 upset to Coffs Harbour on a freezing cold afternoon at Coronation Park.
Incredible because the Roosters won despite six of their players spending time in the sin bin, leaving the team down to 12 men for the majority of playing time and reduced to 11 for a critical period just before half time when camped on the Comets line.
Lots of niggling and juvenile conduct made the first half a diabolical exhibition.
But the last 30 minutes was a thriller as the home side kept coming back as the Comets began to tire badly.
The man of the hour was centre Jay Melrose who tore the visiting team's backline defence to shreds.
He finished the game with three tries and went close to another two but saw the money passes go to ground.
Coach Barrett was urged to bring his main attack weapon in closer to the action but won't hear of it.
"No way, he's my main man out there and none of the other sides know to handle him," Barrett said.
"But gee ... didn't my blokes scramble well.
"Even early on when we got a bit behind I still thought we could win.
"They are just a great bunch who again have worked hard and haven't given up.
"It will win a game for us every time."
The winning try was something out of the box.
A mix of hero and villain in the eyes of his former Coffs team mates, Big Rooster Alex Hull charged onto a short ball seconds after returning from the sin bin and set up play for Melrose who cruised onto the sweetest-timed pass imaginable.
Asked if his team was in a recession or merely going through an old-fashioned mid-season slump, Coffs coach Colin Speed struggled for an explanation.
"I have to give credit to Nambucca for the way they ended," he said.
"We started slow but once we got going we should have run up 30 points but backed off again."
Neither coach was enamoured by the niggling tactics but Speed was less than impressed.
"Sometimes I wonder where you draw the line between sin bin and send off," he said.
Keeping the upsets coming, Sawtell recorded a superb 22-14 win over Grafton to totally revive their season.
A great confidence-builder was receiving news before kick off that young star Michael 'Buddy' Hart has been chosen to tour New Zealand with NSW Country under-18s.
Also selected for the team is South Grafton fullback Thomas McGrady.
The game was called off two minutes from full-time when Sawtell's young centre Chris Cook was injured in a tackle.
He was later transported by ambulance to Coffs Harbour Base Hospital.
Group 2 round nine
Nambucca Heads d Coffs Harbour 22-18
Orara Valley d Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 56-26
South Grafton d Macksville 78-16
Sawtell d Grafton 22-14