Rhinos wrap up points
McKITTRICK Park played host to two coaches who looked like they had aged 10 years over the course of Friday night’s local derby between Grafton Rhinos and Lower Clarence.
But at least Rhinos coach Xavier Sullivan could rest easy with two points in his keep.
The Rhinos defeated the Magpies 40-6 in an error-ridden spectacle with Magpies coach Ricky Binge and Sullivan both looking as nervous as a butcher’s thumb throughout the game.
The match was a forgettable stop-start affair spoiled by handling errors from both sides.
The home side struck first when Rhinos five-eighth Ronald Gordon caught the defence napping on the short side and barged his way over the try line.
The Magpies hit back almost immediately when Anthony Hickling ran down a grubber kick in-goal to score in the corner. Jason James landed the conversion between the uprights to give the visitors a handy 6-4 lead.
The Magpies continued to frustrate the opposition with in-your-face defence but a lapse in concentration close to their own line resulted in mercurial playmaker Steve Kirby crossing for a clever four-pointer.
Rhinos sharp-shooter Luke Worthing made no mistake with the conversion attempt to give his side a narrow 10-6 lead 10 minutes out from the break.
The remainder of the first-half was riddled with unforced errors and repeated turnovers which had both coaches pacing up and down the sideline.
Sullivan gave his side an old-fashioned spray at half-time but his players failed to respond as handling errors and glaring mistakes continued to mount.
The Magpies were still in the contest and had a chance to break through for their first win of the season until Rhinos fullback Joel Moss sliced through some feeble defence out wide.
And when Worthing slotted the ball over the black dot the Rhinos finally had some much-needed breathing space.
A late flurry of tries to Todd Cameron, Sam Woods and Joe Ravueta sealed the win.
Magpies coach Ricky Binge described his team’s effort as one of their best for the season but was still concerned by their lacklustre second-half performance.
“It’s the same old thing. We get our first half up and running but drop off after the break,” Binge said.
“It could be fitness or it could be when a couple of things don’t go our way we drop our heads.”
Binge was pleased with his outside backs who stood up to the task of shutting down Rhinos try-scoring machine Joe Ravueta.
“We did our homework and strengthened our right-side defence,” he said.
“I moved our half James King to the right side to help Paul McDermott and Ken Laurie who both did a great job in containing Ravueta.
“I also thought our two under-18 players, Tim Peters and Robbie Howard both stood up on the night.”
For Sullivan, the game produced some positive signs leading up to the semi-finals.
“It was a stop-start affair which cruelled the game a bit but I thought our defence was very good tonight,” Sullivan said.
“The last 15 minutes is what we’ve been putting on the paddock the last few weeks so if we can magnify that for the whole game we’ll be alright.”
Starting fullback Dwayne Duke and the right-side combination of Luke Worthing and Ryan O’Grady were among those to impress for the Rhinos.
“Dukey is starting to get back to his best and Luke and Ryan have been as safe as houses,” Sullivan said.