By TONY WHITE
AN audacious Brett Smidt try after being handed the ball under the Casino goalposts by outstanding young Magpie Aaron Taylor, typified a black and white rout at Maclean Showground yesterday.
The lumbering prop's 57th minute try was celebrated by most of the Lower Clarence players diving atop of Smith in a baseball like human pile.
The bemused crowd, one of the season's biggest at the Magpies home ground and made up of a hundred or more kids with black and white painted faces, cheered wildly, especially after Smith converted his own try.
Lower Clarence ran out clear cut 74-12 winners over the Casino Cougars who were toothless for most of the match.
It was a fitting finale for Lower, despite the disappointment at missing the finals series.
"This was a great way to end," winning captain-coach Jason Hebbard said post game.
"We had a lot to play for and the boys had a great time out there.
"Casino were in front of us on the table. Now we've finished just outside of the top six.
"We're looking to strengthen next year, especially in reserve grade. That is one of our main priorities."
After a slow start, Lower showed throughout the season they were capable of matching it with the top teams, but too often threw away games they should have won through complacency, slack defence or lack of a steely attitude.
Certainly the mid-season injury to star halfback and playmaker Jason Wilkinson, one of the Magpies best yesterday, was disruptive at the wrong time.
However, the club has a solid base to improve next year, particularly with their young guns coming through the ranks under Hebbard's watchful guidance.
The Magpies scored scored four first-half tries yesterday to go to the break leading 24-6.
They were clearly dominant in all facets, Wilkinson, Gavin Galvin, Darren Blackett and Ben McDonald to the fore after the forwards laid the platform with the hard yakka up front.
After half-time, highlighted by 150 children chasing a lolly throwing Santa in midfield, the Magpies simply ran riot.
They scored eight unanswered tries, Taylor, McDonald, Galvin, Adam Elliott running amok, before Casino got back on the board with a try to Todd Walker in the 75th minute to trail 68-12.
In the 78th minute Aaron Taylor crossed for his second try in first grade and Hebbard converted to complete the 74-12 thrashing.
Taylor had earlier starred in the Magpies Under-18 team's 48-nil thumping of Casino.
The highly promising prospect scored three tries and kicked eight from eight, including two screamers from the sideline, for a personally tally of 28 points. Lower made it a clean sweep beating Casino 36-24 in reserve grade.
FIRST GRADE: LOWER CLARENCE 74 (Darren Blackett 3, Ben McDonald 2, Adam Elliott 2, Jason Hebbard 2, Aaron Taylor 2, Luke Many, Brett Smidt tries; Jason Wilkinson 9, Jason Hebbard, Brett Smidt goals) d CASINO 12 (Ben Birney, Todd Walker tries; Matt Taylor, Garry Roberts goals). Referee: Gary Graham. Penalties: Casino 4, Lower Clarence 3. Half-Time: 24-6 Lower Clarence.
RESERVE GRADE: LOWER CLARENCE 36 (Darren Brough 2, Liam Jones, Damien Randall, Wayne Reed, Morris Collins, Aaron Walker tries; Anthony Hickling 2, Liam Jones, Damien Randall goals) d CASINO 24 (unavailable).
UNDER-18s: LOWER CLARENCE 48 (Aaron Taylor 3, Luke Prosser 2, Troy Harding 2, Ryan Binge tries; Aaron Taylor 8 goals) d CASINO nil.