Magpies too much for Koalas to bear
By TONY WHITE
LOWER Clarence Magpies' hopes of a berth in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League finals series were kept alive at Maclean Showground yesterday with a 52-24 defeat of the South Tweed Koalas.
However, Magpies coach Jason 'China' Wilkinson admitted they would have to vastly improve on yesterday's mistake-riddled effort to be a realistic chance of taking part in finals action.
"I don't know what it was, we were flat and lethargic, but at least we've won," he said. "One down, three more must-win games to go."
In the countdown to the finals Wilkinson will be happy to get away with two points, even if the Magpies aren't at their best.
Certainly they were clearly dominant yesterday and the mid-season 20-minute 'drop off' period didn't occur, although it was hardly high class football.
Wilkinson said the racing carnival period, a bye and lack of numbers at training was a contributing factor to the overall effort and he was confident there is still improvement to come.
Blockbusting centre Ken Mercy, who missed this week due to work commitments, and second rower Tom Freebody, are still to come back into the team, which is a plus.
South Tweed got off to a bright start leading 4-0 after an intercept-try to centre Brendan Rotumah, but that was the only lead the Koalas enjoyed.
After 20 minutes of scrappy play, with the Magpies throwing away several scoring opportunities, centre Brett Laurie dived over and with Wilkinson's conversion, Lower hit the front 6-4.
From the ensuing kick off, following enterprising football by Ryan Binge and Aaron Murray, winger Damien Randall scored the first of his two tries.
Another to Wilkinson in the 20th minute and Randall in the 38th minute helped the Magpies to a 22-10 lead at the break.
They stretched the lead to 28-10 after a rampaging Wayne Read try, then Daine Laurie was sin-binned for 10 minutes.
Read's fellow 'bookend', Mick Harris, close to the man of the match, powered over for a 34-10 lead to the Magpies. After Reece Sandy scored for the Koalas, the Magpies put on unanswered tries to Murray and Brett and Daine Laurie to skip to a 52-16 lead.
South Tweed crossed twice late in the match.
Harris had one of his best games of the season, Grant Brown was strong at fullback, Cowling was in the thick of the action and wingers Randall and Ben McDonald elusive with their blinding speed. Under-18 players Byron Aitken and Lenny Anderson deserve special praise for their efforts.
Wilkinson and Murray ensured creativity and hooker Daniel Battersby was very solid.