THOUGH the Manning River Ratz 21-17 rugby union defeat of the Wallamba Bullls was not the all-important Kennards Hire minor premiership celebration, their makeshift clubhouse sounded and shook as if they had claimed the grand final qualification at Taree Rugby Park last Saturday.
Engrossing football, saturatingly cold in an afternoon of drenching rain, the game reeked of good hard football by two fine teams, regardless of the discomfort and often indistinguishability of players despite the initiative by referees Greg Boyer and Alan Wheatland to have the ground's floodlights switched on at 3.20pm.
Back in their clubhouse for the first time since the Ratz initial grand final victory last winter and subsequent devastating fire, it was a win which appeared to be eluding the Raz after their 14-0 lead soon after the interval.
Triggered by lock Hau Honema'u's crushing run, ever-dangerous Ash Rushby bustled in for a retaliatory try only to see the Bulls briefly held 17-14 lead wiped out by Corey Wheeler slashing through the Bulls' midfield defence for the match-winning try.
Referee Boyer ultimately awarded his player of the match to the Ratz' playmaker, Wheeler, with his team-mate, centre Bruwyn Tisdell, claiming two points and Rushby one point.
There was a women's 10-player-a side game curtain-raiser with Lucy Green, Jess Maher and Natalie Watson shining in the Ratz's 42-17 defeat of the Wallamba Bulls for whom Jane Macklyn starred .
The only bleak news from the Lower Mid North Coast's rugby premierships was that the Old Bar Clams forfeited to the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins.
The abiding hope of all in the region is that the once mighty, dual-premiership-winnings Clams, are not compelled to draw stumps and abandon rugby permanently due to lack of numbers.