SCU Marlins miracle comeback leads to upset of Cannonballs
MIRACLES do happen in rugby as Southern Cross University discovered in an astonishing 32-29 upset of Kempsey.
Marlins appeared headed for a thrashing midway through the second half when the Cannonballs scored their second try of the stanza to run 11 points clear but somehow got their mojo back.
A huge surge led to a pair of tries that put the home side back in business and in the dying seconds, Marlins won a vital scrum near Kempsey's line.
Instead of pushing to the short side, half Damon Rootes took the long option and sent the ball wide and two passes later Josh Rayner went over in the corner to put them one point in front, extended to three with their only conversion of the match.
Kempsey had an opportunity to snatch a draw in the dying seconds with a long ranges penalty attempt from 41 metres out and dead in front but the ball went wide and referee Andrew Birch then called time on what had been an amazing comeback.
Assistant coach Terry Rayner said he was thrilled for the players who he admitted had been down in confidence after the controversial loss of premiership points that's still to be sorted out.
"We couldn't kick a goal until that last one and how important did that become when Kempsey could have beaten us on the bell with a penalty," he said.
"It's terrific for the boys after the points dispute as it's hard to get yourselves up every week with that in the back of your mind.
"We scored five tries to four but Kempsey weren't out of it until the final whistle and made us really lift to win it."
It was a fairly good first half by Marlins with three tries scored and two disallowed by referee Andrew Birch.
However, something went wrong in the half time pep talk and it was Kempsey taking control from the moment the teams returned to the park.
"We had trouble with their big backs and gave them room to move," Rayner said.
"While we had a fairly simple game plan of playing down their end and running the ball close to their line, we couldn't put everything together.
"They started those tactics on us and we took time to regroup and start to hold onto them again.
"Plus we were rushing things and that saw us hand over some vital possession."
James Perrett was outstanding in attack and it was his try that pulled the Uni boys within striking distance of turning the corner.
"He's a really classy player and if a couple more like that turn up next year, watch us go for it then," Rayner added.
Upper MNC Rugby
Southern Cross University Marlins d Kempsey Cannonballs 32-29
Hastings Valley Vikings d Port Macquarie Pirates 29-14
Coffs Harbour Snappers bye
Hastings Valley d Port Macquarie 44-7
Kempsey d SCU 20-7
Bowraville Goannas d Woolgoolga Whitepointers 27-22
Dorrigo Rangers d Coffs Harbour 29-7
Port Macquarie d Hastings Valley 78-5
Kempsey d SCU 24-22
Coffs Harbour d Bowraville 28-26
Port Macquarie d Hastings Valley 79-7
SCU d Kempsey 33-14
Coffs Harbour d Dorrigo 26-12