Rugby double for northern sides
COACH Dave Nicol had a smile as wide as a split in a watermelon following Southern Cross University's 43-20 win over Hastings Valley at Advocate (Comets') Park.
In the space of 80 minutes, Nicol went through all the emotions described in the 'hard knocks' coaching manual.
There was the adrenalin rush of seeing Liam Sandstrom score within the opening minute, along with the gut-wrenching suspense of watching the side give away penalty after penalty when discipline went to pieces midway through the second half as the Vikings came back with a vengeance.
But the smiles returned when Marlins scooted ahead with a pair of tries in the final 10 minutes as the fatigue finally wore the visitors down and had more minutes remained, the final score could have blown out to almost anything.
"It would be great if they could put it together like that every week," Nicol grinned said.
"They had discipline in the first half and while they lost the plot for a little while there, discipline came back in the second half and our defence was exceptional.
"It was looking scary at 29-20 when we did some silly things and almost let Vikings back into the game but I've got to give it to my boys ... they defended over and over and got away with it.
"Maybe it's because they are young they go off course every now and then."
After that shock opening, it didn't take Hastings long to post first points.
For a lengthy period it looked likely they could take control of the match, despite the difficulties faced on the day.
The club arrived with 23 players for two grades and missed stars David Tunstead and Adam McCormack, yet their determination was a credit.
Each time Marlins skipped away, Vikings kept coming back and only trailed by two points at the break.
"At half time I was very frustrated and let my blokes know it," Nicol said.
A fine start to the second half with a pair of tries gave Marlins vital breathing space.
They needed it.
A long passage found them stuck in one half with silly mistakes compounding the problem.
Poor kicking options, penalties conceded and cross-field running had Nicol pacing the sideline fuming at the ineptitude.
However, a long line break by fullback Josh Rayner was the dose of oxygen that was needed and once the best player on the field, Cameron Smith, had crossed for a well-deserved try, victory was on the way.
Meanwhile, Coffs Rugby had the afternoon's away engagement and found few problems in the 48-12 disposal of South West Rocks.
"Except for Kris Kent only being able to convert three of our eight tries, so can you please give him a razzing?" skipper Paul Butcher quipped.
"Seriously, our biggest worry was the uncontested scrums which turned it into a league match and made us a bit sloppy at times.
"We must have bombed at least four or five tries by getting too hungry with the ball and I'm looking forward to getting back to traditional rugby style."
Hooker Lindsay Devery was the pick of the bunch, Waqa Yaya proved hard to handle out wide and Chris Tonks also dominated in the forwards when a late starter for the game after being originally ruled out through work commitments.
Butcher was the only casualty with a dislocated finger.
Next weekend is a general bye due to the Tri-Zone championships.
SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY MARLINS 43 (J Rayner 3 L Sandstrom 2 C Smith tries S Donald 5 conversions and a penalty) bt HASTINGS VALLEY VIKINGS 20 (S Pagan D Sprague D Lewis tries L Chapman conversion and penalty)
COFFS RUGBY bt SOUTH WEST ROCKS GAOLERS 48-12 (no scorers available)
Hastings Valley bt SCU 13-12
Coffs Harbour Crabs bt Bowraville Goannas 21-15
Coffs Rugby received forfeit from SCU