Old Bar Pirates at home to Taree City Bulls

Old Bar utility player Corey Wheeler looks for support in the first round clash against Taree City. The sides meet again on Saturday at Old Bar.

Old Bar utility player Corey Wheeler looks for support in the first round clash against Taree City. The sides meet again on Saturday at Old Bar.

OLD Bar co-coach Jake Wheeler is convinced that if the Pirates had made just four more completions in the first round Group Three Rugby League game against Taree City, they would have won.

As it was the Pirates took home a share of the competition points courtesy of a field goal after the bell kicked by prop Zeb Samuel –the first he’d landed in a competition match. This locked it up at 25-25, ending what had been a fluctuating a free-flowing contest.

Completions is one area Wheeler believes his side has to improve when the teams meet for a second time this season on Saturday, where the Pirates will enjoy the home ground advantage at Old Bar Reserve.

The Pirates sit just out of the five but Wheeler pointed out, the sides they play in the run-in to the finals are either close to or behind them on the ladder. Port City and Macleay are both out of the way along with the improving Port Macquarie.

The last time the Pirates met the Bulls at Old Bar the Pirates put 50 points on their arch rivals. This was in the final competition round last year when Old Bar was out of playoff contention.

Old Bar goes into tomorrow’s match on the back of a big win over Forster-Tuncurry last match.

“The first half is the best we’ve played this year,’’ Wheeler said of  the performance against the Hawks.

Old Bar led 42 blot at the break. They fell away in the second, but still won easily.

The Pirates will be close to full strength tomorrow, although Wheeler and prop Andy Petelo are still sidelined with ankle injuries.

“But I’m confident the side we’ve picked will get the job done,’’ Wheeler said.

There will be two matches on Sunday.

Port Macquarie will look to stay in the race for a top three berth at the expense of Forster-Tuncurry at the Regional Stadium, Port Macquarie.

The Hawks go into the game after three heavy defeats and they’ll be happy when fulltime is called in what has been a lean season.

Macleay Valley should prove too strong for Wauchope at Verge Street Oval, Kempsey in the other encounter.

The Mustangs pushed Port City all the way last week before going down 20-14. Port led 16-14 into the dying moments of the second half. Second placed Macleay will also be looking to keep their one point advantage over Taree City.

Wauchope won’t be playing semi-final football this year. The Blues were thrashed 50-10 by Port Macquarie last weekend.

Bruised Bulls down on players

TAREE City will be without three and possibly four regular first graders for the showdown with Old Bar in the Group Three Rugby League game at Old Bar on Saturday.

The Bulls are limping after a bruising 30-22 win over Wingham last week. Fullback Dean Mills and winger Nayden Moriarty are both casualties, Mills with a shoulder injury while Moriarty was knocked out.

Hooker/five-eighth Matt Everitt is unavailable, further cutting into the side’s resources. Second rower Ash Currey was due to face the judiciary last night after being sent off against Wingham.

Utility player Tim Alliston has suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury in further bad news for the Bulls.

Coach Gary Bridge said he will bring under 18s in the the side this week, given his lack of options in reserve grade.

“Our under 18s will finish in the top three while we need to keep winning in first grade to stay in the top three and possibly get to second,’’ Bridge said.

“This is a vital game – Old Bar wants to keep winning to get into the five while we want a top three spot,’’ Bridge said.

The first round game was a cracker and ended in a draw when Old Bar prop Zeb Samuel kicked a field goal after the fulltime siren to lock the scores.

Bridge expects another close contest on Saturday.

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