Gloucester Cockies women's take out Manning River Ratz in minor semi-final

The Gloucester Cockies women needed all their renowned spirit and "heart" to overcome Manning River in the minor semi-final of the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union premiership play-offs at Taree Rugby Park on Saturday.

"It was a must-win game for us, sudden-death," coach Chris Marchant said after the exhausting 22-17 win over Manning River. "Lose, and we would have been eliminated for the year.

"Well done, girls," he congratulated his team. "You played for each other and supported each other marvellously. You were a credit to the club."

The Cockies' win was all the more significant for the game was played on the Ratz's home ground, at what local hard-heads refer to as "the Rat Trap".

Misfortune struck the Cockies early against the Ratz. After just five minutes, they were stunned by injury to Claire Shultz with a suspected broken nose.

In Claire's absence, Courtney Whitby played outstandingly and the team's spirits soared as Amy Shultz powered over to complete a back line move for the Cockies' first try.

Confidence rising, Laura Rixon extended the Cockies' lead to 12-0 to end the first 10-minute quarter.

Despite Courtney proving a strong-running and elusive inside back, the Ratz displayed their character by levelling the score at 12-all at half-time.

In 10-a-side rugby, the teams play on a full-length field, which makes the game physically exhausting. Speed and strength are essential qualities, but so, too, is stamina.

Bronte Wisely, Kelly Rees, Charlotte Maslen and Bianca Rugari have been Gloucester stalwarts all year with Ellie Schumann a strong-running back, and as the pace of the game sapped the women's strength, so did Gloucester's spirit prevail.

Bronte raced 40 metres to snatch back a 17-12 lead and Courtney Whitby capped her strong performance with a try to extend their lead to 22-12.

It was a lead they never surrendered through the last quarter despite Lucy Green's valiant try for Manning River.

Gloucester will meet the Wallamba Bulls in next Saturday's preliminary final at Wauchope, after the Bulls were run down, 49-17, by Wauchope Thunder.