Both the Illawarra Womens and Colts squads had mixed
fortunes on the first day of the NSW Country Championships in Tamworth. Both groups
finished the day with a win and a loss and will both be playing off for third
spot on the final day of the tournament on Sunday.
The Colts opened the days play in a match against Mid
North Coast and completely outplayed the northerners running in eight tries in
a resounding 54 – 5 result. No. 8 Harvey Austin was outstanding in every aspect
of the match scoring four tries including a kick and chase try showing great
pace for a forward. Wingman Blake Gurney also had an eye catching performance running
in two tries and involving himself in a busy workload. Opeti Taufahema and
center Kyle Wasson also contributed strongly.
The Colts second match brought them up against a strong
Newcastle Hunter side that proved a much tougher opponent than The Axemen.
Newcastle got off to a big start scoring a try from a rolling maul for an early
5 – nil lead but the young Illawarriors stuck to the task managing to take an
11 – 5 lead to the break. Behind 5 – 3 as the final seconds ticked down on the
clock wingman Gurney took an intercept after a scrum win by Newcastle deep in
the Illawarra quarter. Gurney charged up field and when circled by defenders
kicked ahead into the Newcastle quarter. After a scramble for the ball Gurney
regained possession and scored a smart try in the left corner for the Illawarriors
to have the lead 11 – 5 at the break.
In a tightly contested second term Illawarra produced an
outstanding defensive effort and were clinging to their half-time lead when
very cruelly one minute from the final bell Newcastle scored a converted try to
steal the match 12 – 11. A shattered group will now go on to the third place
play off at 8.00AM Sunday.
The Lady Illawarriors
came to the carnival with significant personnel problems due to player unavailability’s
from injury and other difficulties. With the side struggling to field an
experienced backline several players were forced to play out of position. Their
first match was a real contest against Central North. In a dour match the girls
scored two tries to one to take the game 12 – 0. The second brought them up against
a strong fluent Central West side. The western girls played a fast paced attacking
game which the Illawarra side couldn’t match going down decisively 22 – 0.
Strong performances for Illawarra came from Flanker Malama Leatigaga, Fly-Half Melinda
Dunn, Center Chantelle Leatigaga and spirited Captain, Flanker Sandra Laughlin.