WINGHAM retained the Krystylea Bridge Cup with a comfortable 36-10 win over Taree City in the Group Three Rugby League game played at a gusty Jack Neal Oval on Saturday.
This is fifth time in six years the Tigers have won the challenge match. The contest was as good as over after 15 minutes when Wingham had 14 points on the board, despite running into the wind. By halftime the score had blown to 24-0 and Wingam went through the motions in the second section.
Best news for the Tigers was the return of centre Kurt Lewis from a broken hand. Lewis sustained the injury in the clash against Wauchope on June 15 and wasn't expected back until just before the playoffs. However, he slotted onto the wing and turned in a busy performance, finishing with two tries and he was always a menace to the Taree City defence.
Energetic hooker Mitch Collins was the official player of the match. This was based on his first half performance, when Collins continually picked up metres with incisive runs from dummy half or in general play. Collins, like the rest of his team-mates, only did what was required in the second half. He shaded hard running second rower Nick Beacham, who bulldozed his way through would-be defenders during the first half. Beacham didn't spend much time on the field in the second half, the Wingham coaching staff obviously thinking about the games to start at the end of the month.
Captain-coach Mick Sullivan picked up two first half tries and as usual had support players charging into holes, particularly on the left edge in the first half, where the Bulls looked particularly vulnerable.
Despite the blustery weather the game drew the season's biggest crowd to the Neal Oval, the day a fund raiser for Manning Valley Can Assist. There was no lack of trying from the Bulls, but they saw little ball in the first half and spent most of the opening 40 minutes defending, or at least trying to defend, their line.
Sullivan was over for the game's first try within 10 minutes and Taree City replied by putting the kickoff out on the full. So Sullivan crossed for a second minutes later. He then sent Beachamp careering through a gap close to the line to post Wingham's third try. Just before halftime Lewis scored his first touchdown and then Sullivan laid on a pass for Matt Bridge to cross to make it 24-0 with Danny Russell's goal.
Sullivan gave himself an early mark with about 15 minutes to go, although most of the Tigers seemed to have clocked off well before then.
Hard working prop Matt Taupe pushed his way over the line to break Taree City's duck late in the second half and Logan Wallis kicked the conversion. Taupe made it a double just before fulltime. Earlier Jackson Mullen had scored for Wingham while Lewis had the final say, notching his second just before fulltime. The Bulls lost utility player Toby De Stefano and back rower Rob Mason through injury during the encounter. Taree has just two games to play this year and the final whistle for a tough 2019 can't get here quickly enough for them.
Wingham won the reserve grade 44-10 however, Taree City marked Brooke Murray's 150th game with an important 18-6 result in the women's league tag.
Wingham 36 (M Sullivan 2, K Lewis 2, N Beacham, M Bridge, J Mullen tries D Russell 4 goals) defeated Taree City 10 (M Taupe 2 tries, L Wallis goal).