A POWERHOUSE performance from second rower Brody Howard paved the way for Manning Ratz to charge into next Saturday’s Lower North Coast Rugby Union final against defending premiers Wallamba.
The Ratz booked a berth in the match by demolishing Gloucester 55-13 in the elimination semi-final played at Nabiac. Manning had to work harder than the scoreline suggests. Gloucester were enthusiastic, but out-gunned and Howard in particularly tore the defensive line to shreds. Gloucester only had 13 players to start the game and gained another 10 minutes into the clash.
However, there was a concern for the Ratz deep into the second half when centre Toby De Stefano limped off after sustaining what appeared to be a hamstring strain. The Ratz will need him 100 percent fit if they are going to down Wallamba at Nabiac on Saturday to earn a crack at Forster Tuncurry in the grand final.
It was an encouraging performance from the Ratz as the club looks to secure its first Lower North Coast premiership.
While Howard was the star halfback Tim Rees was a another standout. He made plenty of metres with his probing runs while he also gave his outside backs some quality ball. Bruwyn Tisdell started the game in the centres but shifted to fullback after Reece Holden sustained a leg injury. Tisdell had a bit more room to move in the custodian’s role and he made life difficult for the Gloucester defenders. David Rees was given a 10 minute spell in the sin bin during the second half, but when he was on the field he was also hard to contain.
The teams traded tries in the opening 15 minutes to have the scores locked at 5-5 with Luke Bartlett crossing for the Ratz and Ethan Hamilton for the Cockirs.Then a Mick Wooster penalty goal gave Gloucester a three point advantage. But the Ratz always appeared more threatening and Howard charged through the line to score a strong try to put Manning back in the lead.
De Stefano was the next to cross to give the Ratz a 15-8 advantage. Howard did the groundwork for a try to Chris Noonan and Sam Hartnett added the conversion to give the Ratz some clear air at 24-8. However, Manning failed to clear the ball from their line just before halftime and the Cockies cashed in with an opportunistic try, giving Gloucester some hope at the break with the score at 24-13.
The Ratz were in again soon after the resumption with a try to skipper Jake Maurirere and it was one-way traffic from there and a penalty try for a Gloucester infringement rounding off the scoring.