Gloucester Cockies play the Manning Ratz

The war cry of the Manning River rugby union club has rarely sounded more brazen or bawdier than on Saturday after their winter-transforming defeat of the Gloucester Cockies in the best rugby union game of the season at Taree Rugby Park.

In perfect playing conditions when almost every other ground in the Mid-Coast Council area was closed due to rain, and before their biggest crowd of the year, the Ratz clawed their way back from a 10-0 deficit to win four tries to three and 32-22 to reclaim third position in the Lower Mid North Coast competition.

This second round fixture, much postponed due to rain, was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait, an even better spectacle than the unbeaten Wallamba Bulls’ 29-21 defeat last month of the four-time premiers, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins.

The Gloucester Cockies have been vulnerable at times this season, but on Saturday they were more like the old, formidable Cockies the game needs and wants, Mick Wooster’s scrum gaining important superiority yet the Ratz asserting themselves in the tremendous physical battle.

Gloucester were up to their necks in the game goal-kicking winger Luke Bartlett drove over two crucial penalty goals for the Ratz in the last 10 minutes.

Following the women’s seven-aside game, a delighted Ratz coach, Jake Maurirere, said: “That game was what we needed, a really good, hard win. We can build on that. Now we want to win our next two games to prepare us for the semi-finals in August.”

After a torrid first half-hour, the Cockies’ 20-year-old prop, Alex Wright, a 125kg, super heavyweight boxer, crashed through for the game’s first try, prop Chris Noonan responding for the Ratz five minutes later after inroads by big locks Blake Howard and David Rees.

For a breakaway, Chris Fitzsimmons makes a fine halfback. With enterprising, young five-eighth Josh Ross and inside-centre James Farrawell, the Ratz have a smart inside backs combination who will cause rivals many headaches in the weeks ahead.

That said, Gloucester have also quality backs in half-back pair,  Doug Lawrie and Nick Clarke, centre Mark Gurusinga and fullback Ryan Yates, all backs with an attacking mindset although lineout-jumping flanker, Jeremy Kelly, was probably their best.

The bonus point win reclaimed the Ratz third position behind Wallamba and Forster Tuncurry ahead of the Myall Coast Mudcrabs. More importantly, the game illustrated that with the competition now beyond half-way, players are training more consistently.

The Forster Dolphins could heed a lesson. Two months of engrossing rugby lie ahead.

MANNING RIVER 32 (C Noonan B Howard J Farrawell J Grainger tries; L Bartlett 3 goals 2 pen goals) beat GLOUCESTER 22 (A Wright M Meredith K Wamsley tries; M Wooster 2 goals pen goal).

The Lower MNC competition points now are: Wallamba (40 points), Forster Tuncurry (35), Manning River (20), Myall Coast (17), Gloucester (6), Old Bar (2).

Next Saturday’s draw is: Manning River v Old Bar at Taree Rugby Park; Wallamba v Myall Coast at Nabiac; Gloucester v Forster Tuncurry at Gloucester.