WINGHAM finished with two vital competition points but had to work hard to overcome a determined Taree City 30-18 in the Group Three Rugby League game played at the Wingham Sporting Complex on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers also have a major injury concern, with star halfback Jarom Haines hyperextending his elbow early in the first half. He was immediately replaced and took no further part in the contest.
Wingham never really looked like losing the match, but captain-coach Mitch Collins was far from happy with the overall effort.
Collins was again Wingham's best, having a hand in the majority of their tries.
"I wasn't real impressed with our fundamental errors,'' Collins said.
"Taree was a lot stronger than I thought, but our attack was pretty ordinary. We gave way too many penalties and dropped too much ball. We were pretty ordinary and it has been the same for the past three weeks.''
Collins conceded losing Haines was a blow.
"He guides us around and once he went off things got a bit scrappy. But once Josh (Griffiths) moved into the halves I thought we were a lot better.''
Taree City captain-coach Trae Clark had much the same sentiments as Collins.
"It's the same thing mate, we hurt ourselves,'' he said.
"Too many penalties and too many errors. Every. Single. Week. We're competing good, when we get a repeat set we seem to score points, but we're our own worst enemy at the moment.''
The Bulls started under 18 fullback Nav Willett in the starting 13 while another 18, prop Oscar Holt, came off the bench. Both played strongly. Clark said both will stay in first grade.
"Oscar and Navran both went good. We have to play our best talent in the club so we'll be keeping them there.''
Tall enough to basketball play for the Sydney Kings, Willett has been used off the bench so far this season but this was his first game in the run-on side as the Bulls had a bye in the junior grade. He was composed and willing to get involved. Holt produced some punishing runs when introduced into the game. If the club can keep hold of their promising crop of young players, there will be better days ahead.
RELATED: Budd signs with Tigers
Collins turned in a typical performance. He was sharp out of dummy half and generally busy in attack and defence. He threw the last pass for three tries, all from close range.
Long striding second rower Joel Kleindienst continued his rousing early season form while lock Nick Beacham was another Tiger to get through plenty of work. Griffiths was the best of the backs, while winger Fletcher Lewis has been a find with his goal kicking.
This was by far Taree's best performance of the year, Generally speaking, they competed for the 80 minutes and didn't concede points in quick succession as has been the case in earlier fixtures. In fact, Taree finished the stronger. The forwards tried hard, led by lock Ethan Currey while halfback Keiren Cochrane did some good things. Five-eighth Nathan Maher is a smart ball player, but he should take on the defensive line more often as he can cause damage.
Wingham trooped off at the break leading 16-10 via tries to Kleindienst, Beacham and Lewis. Kleindienst and Beacham's efforts were both from close range while Griffiths capitalised when the Bulls were caught short on the left hand side to position the winger.
Hooker Warren Buchanan scored a soft try for Taree from dummy half while just on halftime, usually when Taree concedes points, winger Jake Saunders scrambled over in the corner. Beacham scored his second soon after the re-start and when winger Liam Phillips worked his way over in the corner, extending Wingham's lead to 28-10 it looked as though it would be a blow out.
But Taree showed resolve and finished with the two best tries of the game, the first when Cochrane placed a perfectly weighted kick for Clark to accept and score while quick hands along the short side saw winger Todd Northam do well to plant the ball in the corner. With six remaining Taree was some chance at 28-18. However, the Tigers received a penalty just before fulltime. Cochrane was sin binned but he had just made it to the sideline when the siren sounded. Lewis kicked the goal, and in what could be a tight finish to the season with final four spots decided on four and against, they could be two important points.
Taree won a see-sawing women's league tag game 14-12. Wingham took out reserve grade 18-16, the winning try scored by hooker Andrew Gilbert just before fulltime. The day was also a reunion of Wingham's premiership winning first and reserve grade teams from 2002. Gilbert was hooker for the first grade team that year.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.