Rhinos hang tough
ANY doubts that lingered over the Rhinos' place in the rugby league landscape were washed away at McKittrick Park yesterday when they hung on grimly for an 18-10 win against the Magpies.
It was a good, old-fashioned slugfest between two sides desperate for the two competition points.
To claim victory the home side had to overcome some brutal defence and with only 12 men left on the paddock.
Rhinos front-rower Neori Kuramalawa was given his marching orders with 20 minutes left on the clock for lifting his knee while in possession of the ball.
The big prop-forward was cautioned on two previous occasions for the same infringement giving the referees no choice but to send him for an early shower.
A gentle giant on the field, the Fijian work-horse will no doubt be working on his ball-carrying technique during the week.
“There's no malice in Neori's game and there wasn't much in it ... it was just one of those things,” an elated Rhinos coach Shaun Fathers said after the game.
In a game marred by plenty of dropped ball and unforced errors the Rhinos drew first blood through their try-scoring machine Joe Ravueta.
The Fijian centre caused headaches for the Magpies' outside backs all afternoon and could have easily scored more four-pointers if not for some desperate defence.
The Magpies hit back almost immediately when hooker Tom Martin dived over from dummy-half and minutes later a rampaging Xavier Sullivan slipped a miracle ball for Jesse Breckenbridge to score under the posts.
With 10 minutes remaining before the break Rhinos Ricky Farr found himself in space to keep the home side in striking distance.
Just when the Magpies looked like piling on more points Ravueta sprinted 60 metres before providing Josh Burton with a saloon passage to the try line.
The Rhinos received a penalty right on the stroke of half-time and Josh Harris made no mistake with the conversion to give his side a 16-10 lead at the break.
The second half was punctuated by schoolboy errors from both sides in what can only be described as a scrappy affair.
Both teams failed to complete their sets in the slippery conditions, turning the ball over on too many occasions.
With the final siren only minutes away the home side received another penalty and Harris again caressed the ball between the uprights for an 18-10 scoreline in favour of the Rhinos.
For the Rhinos it was their second win of the season after defeating Casino in Round 1 and their coach couldn't be happier.
“It was a gritty win. When you only complete 12 out of your 23 sets in the second half and with a player down ... well ... I'm really happy with the result,” Fathers said. “We got away with the game and it's two on the trot.
“The last couple of years we would have been off our feet. The guys showed a lot of ticker and scrambled well.
“Having the guys fit has made a huge difference.”
Lower Clarence Magpies coach Ricky Binge admitted his side had dropped too much ball.
“It was a very stop-start affair but we didn't cherish the ball enough,” Binge said.
“If you defend for a set of six and you have a scrum and drop the ball then defend for another set it's too much tackling.
“The ball may have been like a cake of soap but you just have to tuck it under your arm.
“One positive to take out of the game was the performance of our under-18s and reserve grade.
“They both played fantastic footy today and showed the club has plenty of depth.”