Rebels on the board for 2019 after Axemen grind
RUGBY LEAGUE: The South Grafton Rebels have posted their first win of the 2019 season, downing the Orara Valley Axemen 22-8 on Sunday.
It was the Axemen that began well when second-rower Alex Bunt and winger Steven Cetinich both crossed early in the match to give the side an 8-0 lead.
The game then fell into an arm-wrestle, with strong defence from both teams strangling their opponents' attack.
It was South Grafton who were able to break the stalemate when five-eighth Allan McKenzie threw a pinpoint cut-out pass to winger Tim Rigg to score.
With the Axemen up 8-6 at half time, things went downhill in the second stanza as the Rebels ran in three tries to claim a 22-8 victory.
Rebels coach Craig Youngjohns credited the win to his side sticking to their game plan and structure, which had been a problem during the first few rounds of the season.
Youngjohns said his team ground away at the back end of the game, stayed patient and stuck to its structure, which built up pressure on the opposition.
"Orara made a few mistakes at the end of the game and we scored off the back of that," he said.
"The past few games we hadn't been sticking to our structure and got caught up in other stuff.
"The win shows that when things go right and we stick to what we trained we can win."
In the absence of suspended five-eighth Hughie Stanley, Youngjohns said Allan McKenzie stepped up to help guide the team around the field.
"Allan did a great job. I thought he was probably one of the best players on the paddock," Youngjohns said.
"He really keeps the team to the structure and is a good communicator, and he was fantastic."
The win takes the South Grafton Rebels off the bottom of the competition table, and they now sit on equal points with their round four opponents.
The focus for the Rebels will now turn to the Bellingen Valley/Dorrigo Magpies, who are yet to find a win for the 2019 season.
Youngjohns said while the win takes a bit of pressure off the team, they will need to build on their performance.
"Back-to-back wins would be good, but we've got to keep doing what we're doing. Things are positive after the weekend," he said.