MANNING Ratz will have to improve their discipline and contain Wallamba’s backline aces James Handford and Chris Tout if they are going to progress to the Lower North Coast Rugby Union grand final.
Captain-coach Jake Maurirere said this as the Ratz prepare to tackle Wallamba in the final tomorrow at Nabiac. Winner will move to the decider against Forster-Tuncurry at Tuncurry on Saturday September 22.
The Ratz also have a couple of injury concerns. Centre Toby De Stefano and fullback Reece Holden were both causalities in Manning’s 55-13 demolition of an understrength Gloucester in the minor semi-final. De Stefano limped off with a hamstring strain while Holden corked his thigh.
Holden is causing the most concern.
“Reece is having scans this week and he’s hoping to be right, but at this stage we’re not sure,’’ Maurirere said.
De Stefano won’t train this week but Maurirere said he’s confident he’ll play.
Josh Ross is waiting to come into the side as a replacement. If Holden is out Bruwyn Tisdell will drop from centre back to the custodian’s role, with Ross deputising as centre.
“Bruywn played really well back there last week after we lost Reece,’’ Maurirere said.
The Ratz were never in any real danger of defeat against the Cockies. However, Maurirere was concerned at the number of penalties they conceded. He said the Bulls will punish them on Saturday for such ill-discipline.
Maurirere said the Bulls like to throw the ball wide and bring fullback Tout and centre Handford into play as often as possible.
“They’re their go-to players,’’ he added.
Second rower Brody Howard decimated the Gloucester defence last week and while the Bulls will be much more formidable, Maurirere backs him to produce a similar effort tomorrow.
“He was supposed to go to Queensland for a chainsaw event, but he’s staying here to play rugby,’’ Maurirere pointed out.
“He was close to unstoppable last week and we can get momentum off him. Brody has ball skills as well and he’s built up a good understanding with our prop, Chris Noonan.’’
Wallamba finished minor premiers and had the major semi-final seemingly secure at halftime last week when leading 21-6 before Forster produced a stunning second half comeback. Maurirere admits he thought he’d be playing the Dolphins this week and not the Bulls.
“But it just goes to show you can never discount Forster in finals,’’ he said.
The Ratz haven’t beaten Wallamba this season, although the last two games were closely fought affairs and Maurirere said his side will need to be at their best tomorrow if they are going to be defending one half of the field on grand final day.