SPEEDY centre Will Baker ran in five tries and Port Macquarie surged into the Group Three Rugby League top five with a commanding 36-14 win over an understrength Old Bar in the clash at Old Bar.
The Sharks are still seething about the loss of six competition points, deducted for two breaches of the group’s match review policy. At one stage it looked as though they might miss out on the playoffs. However, they’ll be playing semi-final football come August. And they’ll take plenty of beating.
The Sharks are in white pointer category in terms of size. Big forwards, led by prop Ben Kirkland lay the platform for a fast backline, hungry for tries. Most country teams would be happy with one game manager. The Sharks boast two – captain-coach and hooker Jake Hawkins in partnership with veteran halfback Joe Cudmore, who control the play –Cudmore throwing the last pass for three of Baker’s tries. However, both also earned the ire of referee Jason Allan and spent 10 minutes in the sin bin during the second half in separate incidents.
Baker scored three tries in first half and two in the second – the last minutes before the fulltime bell. He also had another disallowed after Hawkins was penalised following an altercation with Old Bar halfback Corey Wheeler. This followed a touch judge’s report and Hawkins was given the stay in the confessional. Baker’s third was the best of the five when Cudmore a superb inside ball to the unmarked centre to race clear. Port had all the ball for the opening 10 minutes of the game and turned pressure into points to take a lead of 10-0 they never looked likely to forfeit.
As ever, there was no lack of effort from Old Bar. But for varying reasons the Pirates have lost players since the start of the season and injuries have also taken a toll. This weekend’s clash with Wingham should determine where Old Bar finishes after the competition-rounds. A loss would almost certainly mean they’ll be playing in the elimination semi-final on August 4.
Errors at crucial times were costly for the Pirates. Hard working Carlos Kohu-Martin, again Old Bar’s best, worked his way through takes to post Old Bar’s first try and a goal by Percy King narrowed the margin to 10-6. However, soon after hooker Dylan Towers lost the ball in a strong tackle and it propelled to Sharks winger Oliver Nosworth. He sprinted 50 metres to touchdown. With time ticking away in the first half Old Bar fullback Nathan Maher brushed off a tackle and kicked perfectly for Clint Walker to be first to the ball and the Pirates were back within 10. But Wheeler then spilt the kickoff and was then penalised for booting the ball away. The Sharks capitalised in the next six through a try to second rower Tom Maguire.
Reports indicated the first round clash a couple of weeks ago (Saturday’s game was deferred from April) was willing at times. However, other than Hawkins’s run-in with Wheeler it was all rather tame this time around.
Port won three of the four grades. The day started well for the Pirates when the league tag won 20-0 but the Sharks hit back with a 12-4 success in the 18s while the reserve grade defeated a short-staffed Old Bar 38-4.