FLYING HIGH: Magpies one step from grand final
RUGBY LEAGUE: The Lower Clarence spirit continues to fly high in the NRRRL finals with the Magpies Under-18s side now only one step away from the grand final.
The Magpies earned their way through to the preliminary final with a thrilling 22-14 victory over Tweed Coast Raiders at Cudgen.
But it was not all roses for the Magpies who struggled to fire early in the game, giving up an 8-0 lead to their opposition in the opening 10 minutes of the contest.
"I think it just took our blokes a bit to weather the storm of the Raiders' big men in the middle,” coach Alex McMillan said. "I think we were just a bit out-enthused in the opening period of the game.
"But once their big men began to burn out late in the half that is when we struck. We got a try back on them late in the first half and then started the second with a flurry.”
McMillan said there was no half-time spray for the players. Instead they had been able to pick out where they were going wrong.
The self-evaluation of the Magpies has been key in their run to the finals, with the side showing an impressive ability to adapt to the rigours of the contest.
It showed again at the weekend when five-eighth Nathan Hollis took the reins in the second half and set up a thrilling period of play for the black and whites where they ran in three tries inside 10 minutes.
Winger Peter Laurie was a beneficiary of the run, scoring a double out on the left edge, while hard-running second rower Charles Charlton-Walker also dived over to score.
An 11th hour injury last week forced McMillan to reshuffle his line-up, and it paid major dividends for the Magpies with "Barney'' Anderson proving hard to handle at fullback.
"The best thing about this side at the moment is everyone is doing their job and everyone knows what each other's job is and they don't want to let each other down,” McMillan said.
"Everyone is pulling their weight across the squad, which then frees up our playmakers to play what is in front of them. They can just utilise their natural ability to strike.”
The Magpies head back to the training paddock this week ahead of the preliminary final against Ballina Seagulls. McMillan has already formulated a targeted plan of attack.