Vikings frustrated in Uni debut
AS far as a competition debut goes, today's entry by Southern Cross University into the Mid North Coast Rugby zone was startling.
Facing the might of Hastings Valley Vikings at Advocate Park, a first-up drubbing would have been understandable, if not easily forgivable.
But somebody forgot to tell the news chums to stick to the script.
Eventually they went down 10-7 but could easily have caused an upset of unimaginable scale and coach Dave Nicol was left trembling at the promise shown by his troops.
"We shocked them, we surprised them and it didn't go the way the Vikings planned," he grinned.
The visitor's early tactics were obvious.
They were determined to play as much of the game as possible up Uni's end of the field and make them pay dearly for any errors in judgement.
That would likely have happened had fullback Josh Rayner not beaten the first line so regularly on his ball returns and the home side not been so keen to take the battle right up to their more fancied opponents.
Over and over again the Vikings found their momentum spoiled until the inevitable breakthrough came and Tom Hetherington found himself unmarked and scored in the corner.
Then, two minutes from intermission, the Marlins hit the front.
A scrum win gave field position and with one phase of play to the right, five-eighth Anthony Donovan found himself unmarked.
Play almost broke down but Josh Rayner discovered Simon Donald in support and the winger entered the record books as first try-scorer for the new team.
"The combination of play showed that once they get it right, the sky really is the limit.
"Our little pack of forwards managed to frustrate them and don't forget there are probably only five in the side who have played together in the past," Nicol revealed.
"Once the combination gels we'll go alright.
"Nobody has played with 'Donno' (Anthony Donovan) before and once they work each other out, that will set us up for the rest of the year."
Uni continued to pressure the Vikings' line when play resumed and both sides had tries disallowed.
The visitors may have received an unlucky call when a rolling maul into the in-goal received a thumbs down from referee Michael Tonks but it was nothing like the shock to all and sundry when two penalty shots from in front of the sticks went awry, much to the dismay of coach David Tunstead.
"They were real coach-killers," he groaned.
"But that's part of rugby and part of the frustration that Uni caused us today.
"We were all over them in the scrums but they had their moments in the line outs and kept coming all day and the bounce of the bail gave us a bit of luck at the end."
Persistence paid off when Lawrence crossed to give a three point buffer.
However, the Marlins missed their own opportunity to level by not taking their own gift shot at penalty goal.
"Sorry we missed that but it's also part of my learning curve as coach, back to the players," Nicol added.
"Still, we are very excited at the performance and I don't think anybody expected us to go like that.
"Maybe a cricket score was the prediction but I'm over the moon.
"It's an unbelievable effort by the boys."
HASTINGS VALLEY VIKINGS 10 (T Hetherington G Lawrence tries) bt SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY MARLINS 7 (S Donald try A Donovan conversion)