IT was a game that Will Carrigan would have loved – tough and uncompromising between two long-time rivals.
His beloved Scone Thoroughbreds tackled the Muswellbrook Rams in the inaugural Where There’s A Will Cup at Scone Park on Saturday.
And, while Carrigan wasn’t there in person, his memory certainly was.
Both first grade line-ups wore specially-designed Where There’s A Will jumpers, while the reserves, under-18s and women’s league tag players all donned the foundation’s colourful socks.
“It’s been an emotional day,” co-founder Hilton Carrigan said.
“However, we’re overwhelmed by all of the support.
“It’s fantastic the way everyone has embraced this round, from the players to the clubs, the fans to the NRL.
“To see [NRL boss] Todd Greenberg here today is terrific.
“All we can say is thank you.”
Greenberg, himself, was impressed by the big crowd at the BHP Billiton Hunter Valley Group 21 fixture.
“It’s an honour to be here [today],” he said.
“It is really just an opportunity for rugby league in a community like this, in regional NSW, to give back – and promote some important messages.
“It’s about putting your hand up, asking for help when needed and making sure your mates are okay.
“This code brings communities together.
“And, it’s never been evidenced better than that today.”
On the playing paddock, the Thoroughbreds got off to the perfect start.
In the fifth minute, coach Wes Suckley cracked the defence and set up halfback Sam Taylor. He then added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
But, the Rams hit back straight away.
Centre Jacob Ellis put the side in a terrific attacking position and prop Dylan Thorne powered over. Bailey Taylor leveled it up at 6-all.
Soon after, winger Daniel Ellis touched down out wide. Although Taylor missed the conversion, Muswellbrook led 10-6.
In the 33rd minute, Taylor did it all himself to put the Rams further ahead 16-6 at the break.
Muswellbrook struck immediately from the resumption, with Cade Boney’s deftly-placed kick landing in a prime position for Jacob Ellis. Taylor failed to convert, the score remaining 20-6.
Scone winger Kyle Wilcher gave his team some hope when he sliced through to plant the ball over the line. Taylor raised the flags for 20-12.
That soon became 20-18, courtesy of a Tim Watson four-pointer and Taylor goal.
The Thoroughbreds’ comeback was short-lived, however, when Jacob Ellis gained possession from a one-on-one strip and sent Daniel Ellis into clear space. Taylor made no mistake and extended the margin to 26-18.
In the 72nd minute, Boney fired a cut-out pass to winger Lennie Craft, who chipped over the top and regathered for the easiest of tries. Taylor then lifted the advantage to 32-18.
With time running out, Suckley gave the local supporters something to cheer about. Taylor piloted the ball between the uprights to wrap up the fixture 32-24.
MUSWELLBROOK RAMS 32 (Daniel Ellis 2, Dylan Thorne, Bailey Taylor, Jacob Ellis, Lennie Craft tries; Taylor 4 goals) defeated SCONE THOROUGHBREDS 24 (Sam Taylor, Kyle Wilcher, Tim Watson, Wes Suckley tries; Taylor 4 goals)