Gloucester to play Wallamba in grand final qualifier after loss to Wauchope

It was snowing in the Barrington Tops at the weekend and the climate was no more welcoming at beachside Tuncurry for the Gloucester Cockies' women's 10-a-side team in their windswept major semi-final of the Lower Mid North Coast's rugby union premiership last Saturday.

Coach Chris Marchant knew from his number of injured players and the winter-long performances of the Wauchope Thunder that the minor premiers would present a barbed wire barricade for his team.

So it proved, with a distressed Bella Yates limping from the field minutes into the game and then the Thunder's "Twin Titans", Ellie Johnston and Naomi George, master-crafting an outstanding 39-10 triumph to move into the club's initial grand final on Saturday week.

Given this correspondent's 60 years in the code, it is not unreasonable to suggest that any critic could name an alternative women's team in Australian bush rugby and the power and pace of the Thunder would prove overwhelming.

Naomi was the organiser in the Thunder's forward pack and Ellie ran the back line, fending off rivals and bumping her way past Cockies defenders. There was simply no stopping the Thunder.

Marchant's advice from the side-line: "Tackle lower, girls! Must be down!" went unheeded, and the tries mounted.

Chloe Schultz scorched along the right wing for the Cockies' first try and Courtney Whitby was yellow-carded for a high tackle and Chloe drove the ball down-field to regather and score again for Gloucester to trail 10-19. But they simply lacked the firepower to run down the Thunder.

Gloucester will need to win their preliminary final of the Kennards Hire premiership at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday to qualify for the dubious pleasure of meeting Wauchope again in the grand final.

Their rivals will be the Wallamba Bulls women, who defeated Manning River, 43-7, their inspiration being the petite and swift Courtney Currie, not at all perturbed by a broken left hand.

Courtney played an inspired role at halfback with her hand strapped and involved in as much defensive work as in attacking forays. The Bulls will be formidable rivals.

The unbeaten Forster Tuncurry Dolphins' men's team ran in four tries in the last half hour after trailing 0-17 to enter their seventh successive grand final on Saturday week, their No 8, Tongan "Ho" Honema'u a formidable runner from the back of the Dolphins' scrum and worthy man of the match.

In the men's sudden-death semi-final, the Wallamba Bulls overcame a scrum deficiency to defeat the Wauchope Thunder, 37-27. They will play the Manning River Ratz at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday in the preliminary final.