IN a historic occasion for the Muswellbrook Heelers, the Newcastle-Hunter Rugby Union club capped off a sensational weekend at Highbrook Park on Saturday.
The organisation not only celebrated a 41-0 victory over Griffins in its first outing at home, the Heelers revelled in their partnership with Where There’s A Will by retaining the Matt Kane Shield for the 10th consecutive year.
After four rounds of the divisional competition, the Griffins and the Heelers were sitting last and second last respectively on the ladder.
But, Muswellbrook coach Mick Hall was confident his troops were much better than their place on the table.
The Heelers started the game slowly.
The Griffins’ larger pack was dominant at the breakdown early, but their enthusiasm outweighed their technique and were penalised early.
These penalties gave the Heelers some valuable field position leading to an early try.
The Griffins failed to find the paddock from the ensuing kick-off and Muswellbrook scored from the scrum on halfway.
Halfback Cameron Young passed to Mitchell Googe down the left, pulling in the opposition defence.
He then sent it back to the right, hitting Dylan Smith on the chest at speed to penetrate deep into the attacking half and eventually score in the corner.
Two tries in less than 10 minutes and the Heelers were keen to continue playing attacking football.
The rest of the half settled into the grind with both sides pushing deep into opposing territory but neither threatening the tryline.
A third try to the Heelers closed out the scoring for the first period before the emotions of the day boiled over into a melee that forced the referee into his pocket for a yellow card.
A player from each team got an early option on the oranges.
The Heelers would have to start the second half with 13 players when No.8 Josaia Besetimoala also received a yellow card with a tough call for an illegal charge.
The Griffins put up a fight, but Muswellbrook had the better run of play.
The forwards provided a good platform to a backline that any club would be envious of.
The game, however, was not without its errors.
Both teams suffered from basic errors and the coaching staff at the Heelers still has plenty of work to do.
“The pleasing thing for us was the 41-0 scoreline,” president Greg Buckley said.
“Keeping any team scoreless throughout a game is great and a testament to the attitude this side is building.
“Even the tries were shared evenly between the forwards and the backs.”
Harry Hobden, Jaryd Buckley, Josaia Besetimoala, Cameron Young, Dylan Smith and Ethan Cridland touched down.
Young (3) and Googe (1) landed conversion, while Young also booted a penalty.
Coach’s points this week went to Young (1), Jason Knox and Buckley (2).
Doug Raphael picked up three, as well as the players’ player award.
This week’s fixture is another home game for the Heelers, taking on Easts 2.
Muswellbrook just sits above Easts on the ladder in seventh.
“The clubs have had some good battles over the past few years and this weekend’s game will surely not be any different,” Buckley said.
“Grab your gear and come up to Highbrook for what will be another great day of country rugby.
“Kick-off is at 3pm.
“Thanks goes out to all the players, sponsors and supporters who made the 2018 Memorial Day another success.
“A special thank you to the committee members and helpers for their tireless efforts throughout the day and a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums in our rugby community.”