The Avon Valley should ring to a three-word command from the Gloucester Cockies’ rugby union club for the last two months of the season: “Tackle! Tackle! Tackle!”
Defence failed the injury-riddled Cockies when they needed it most last Saturday, forfeiting two tries in the first six minutes to trail 12-0 to the defending premiers, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, and then crumbling to 48-0 before a three-try revival in 28 minutes, finishing 69-19.
The Cockies are a better team than was evident, injured players watching in misery from the side lines, including backrower Chris Marchant who contracted a virus to postpone his club return.
If little else from Gloucester No 1 Oval, the Cockies are developing an exceptional halfback combination in smart-passing number nine, Doug Laurie, and buzzsaw five-eighth, Nick Clarke, the latter responsible for stepping through from half-way for a splendid try.
In the context of a semi-final position, Gloucester are leaving their run late for the final four. Even three wins from their last six games could leave them shy of sufficient points to deprive Myall Coast of fourth position behind Wallamba, Forster and Manning River.
Nevertheless, the Dolphins had the rigorous workout they needed before next Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against the unbeaten Wallamba Bulls at Tuncurry’s Peter Barclay Field, the Bulls sailing through for their ninth successive bonus point win, defeating Myall Coast, 68-5.
What loomed as a formidable challenge became a stroll in the park for the Dolphins after emergency halfback, Kurt Forester, broke through the Cockies’ ruck twice to instigate the demoralising 12-0 lead.
With flanker Troy Haines smashing into Gloucester’s defences, Matt Nuku orchestrating the team superbly from five-eighth and tight-head Ben Manning back after injury as cornerstone of their scrum and running in two tries, the Dolphins careered away to lead 48-0 in 46 minutes.
Facing a ransacking, Michael Wooster’s men, though depleted by injury, fought back courageously, through Clarke and Luke Boorer, the fullback displaying exceptional speed for two tries.
The last two months of Lower Mid North Coast rugby should see the Cockies become very familiar with coach Tim Threadgate’s tackle bags, presumably neglected items in the club’s store room.
Forster Tuncurry 69 (J Logan 3 B Manning 2 T Homer 2 T Haines M Nuku M Hagarty R Avard tries; L Crozier 4 M Nuku 3 goals) defeated Gloucester 19 (L Boorer 2 N Clarke tries; M Wooster 2 goals); Wallamba 68 defeated Myall Coast 5; Manning River 55 defeated Old Bar 3.