Redmen rolled at home
TWO tries to Grafton Redmen winger Ben Stone could not prevent Wollongbar-Alstonville from claiming victory in their Far North Coast Rugby Union season opener.
Wollongbar hit the Redmen early in the first-grade clash at Rugby Park on Saturday, racing out to a 31-7 lead to have the four-try bonus point wrapped up by half-time.
The hosts produced a spirited performance in the second half, running in two tries to one but it meant little as the 2013 grand finalists prevailed 36-17.
"We just didn't kick off with the intensity that we needed," Redmen coach Peter Tonkin said.
"They pinned us down in our area, put us under a lot of pressure.
"We were desperate in defence and giving away penalties. At one stage the penalties were 10 to one.
"It was a much better second half. We turned it around coming into the wind when things cooled down a little bit.
"We were on a par. I don't think the scoreline indicated what the game was really like."
The Redmen experimented with youthful halves combination Zach Hyatt, 18, and Nathan McPherson, 17.
Tonkin praised the efforts of McPherson in particular, who threw the final pass for Kyle Hancock's try and stood opposite Ben Damon, who was selected as NSW Country Cockatoos five-eighth after representing Richardson Shield runners-up Far North Coast Dolphins at the recent NSW Country Championships in Mudgee.
"We ran on a couple of under-18s from last year's under-17 premiership side," Tonkin said.
"The five-eighth went well up against a Country five-eighth. He put Kyle away for that try with a beautiful pass."
It was a clean sweep for the visitors who earlier won reserve grade 16-10 and triumphed 19-10 in under-18s.
It was just the start Wollongbar senior coaching director John Jenkins had hoped for.
"It was really nice to get three grades up," Jenkins said.
"Grafton always compete well down here at their home ground. So given we had a lot of new players and embedding quite a lot of new structures at the club it was nice to get down here and get a win first up.
"It was also good having Ben Damon playing at 10 and steering us around the park."
The Redmen head to Casino in round two and play for the Hollywood Shield.