GROUP 11 went into their Tier 2 Country Championship match with Group 10 on Saturday with a huge reputation for backline fireworks.
As it turns out, that reputation was well earned.
Six tries spread across two brilliant 10-minute periods of rugby league saw the reigning title holders defeat a gutsy Group 10 team 36-16 at Carrington Park, with all but one member of their vaunted backline crossing the stripe.
The home side did well to keep themselves in reach at 18-16 down with seven minutes to play, but a converted try to Jamie Szczerbanik followed by two brilliant raids which resulted in tries to Dennis Moran and Jade Williams ended the resistance.
“The first half we had some opportunities, we could have scored under the posts pretty early. [Winger] John Grey made a try and also let one slip away,” Group 11 coach Will Harris said afterwards.
“At half-time I let the boys know that I was very happy with what they were doing, considering we’d only had a few training runs together.
“There was a couple of things that I wanted to tighten and I stressed those to them, they let each other know what they thought they could do to contribute to the rest of the game. They came out in the second half and a few things went our way.”
Group 10 were in strife early, with half Tom Clyburn a non-starter through injury forcing Claude Gordon to switch to halfback and Brendon Van Veen to five-eighth.
Two minutes into the match, Gordon picked up a heavy leg injury and took no further part in the game, forcing reserve Jarod Robinson into the halves alongside Van Veen.
Nonetheless, Group 10 drew first blood when a towering Todd Barrow bomb was caught by Tim Bassmann, who then did well to reach out and score.
Despite several breaks, Group 11 couldn’t convert some enterprising right-side attack into points and Group 10 stunned them further when they scored their second through Jono Van Veen, who darted over from dummy-half.
Sensing that they were in a contest despite their opposition’s circumstances, the visitors lifted and in the next set Grey scored from a short side move in the left corner.
Two minutes later Group 11 full-back Ally Beale was on the end of a good kick from Jade Williams and made a spectacular catch close to the dead-ball line to level the scores.
Bassmann fumbled a tough kick from Moran a few minutes later which led to Aiden Ryan scoring Group 11’s third and it looked like they could run away with the match.
However, Group 10 settled, tightened their defence and on the back of some possession, prop Matt Kirkland barged over to give his team back the lead just before half-time, 16-14.
The home side started the better in the second stanza but Rowan Orcher didn’t seem to care as he raced 60 metres to score his team’s fourth in the 45th minute.
That’s where the score remained for almost half an hour, both teams creating good opportunities but squandering them.
However, a big injury toll was beginning to hurt Group 10 and though they had two tries disallowed, Group 11 wouldn’t be denied, their late burst sealing a hard-fought win.
Moran was outstanding for Group 11, as were back-rowers Szczerbanik and Pat Rosser while for Group 10 Brendon Van Veen, Barrow and Kirkland were all standouts.
Group 10 mentor Dave Elvy was a disappointed but proud man after the siren.
“They had good halves, good back rowers and they were a strong side, and for us to lose Tom during the week and Claude after a few minutes was a big blow,” Elvy said.
“I couldn’t be any happier, it was just unfortunate that we had to lose a few players. To be down by two with 10 minutes to play was huge.
“They should be proud of themselves. At the end of the day you can’t win them all, but you can only ask for the effort they give, and I couldn’t have asked for anymore.”