IN front of a vocal home crowd, the Muswellbrook Heelers retained the Matt Kane Shield for the 11th consecutive year at Highbrook Park on Saturday.
Commemorating Memorial Day, and raising funds for the Motor Neurone Association of NSW in the process, the hosts registered another convincing win in the Newcastle-Hunter Rugby Union divisional competition, this time 43-0 over the Newcastle Griffins.
From the kick-off, the Heelers showed they were not going to take their rivals for granted.
New recruit Alistair Buchanan made a solid start, crunching the Griffins ball runner and setting the standard for defence that would eventually shut the opposition out of the game.
Muswellbrook pressured the Griffins in attack and defence and it didn't take long for the side to cross the line.
Off the back of a scrum, the forwards secured a dominant tight-head and number 10 Mitchell Fagan scored out wide.
Cameron Young failed to add the extras.
The Griffins came straight back at the home team, recycling the ball well and maintaining possession for long periods.
But, the Heelers stepped up and knocked over anyone in an opposition jumper.
This took its toll and, even halfway through the first period, it looked like the Griffins had run out of ball runners.
The match fell into a grind and, despite Muswellbrook lifting the pressure, the visitors held on.
The Heelers eventually settled into their game and began playing more directly.
This sucked in the Griffins' defence and the gaps started to appear for the outside backs.
Beau Haywood capitalised on the space his forwards provided and, after a strong midfield run, touched down for the Heelers second try.
Young, having an off day with the boot, missed his second conversion attempt.
The hosts went to the break ahead 10-0 but simple mistakes cost them further points in that stanza.
The message at half-time was a simple one: Continue with the defensive attitude and play a little more directly.
"The lads were playing well but, at times, would panic in possession," Heelers president Michael Hall said.
"The first of five second half tries was scored about four minutes in through fullback Elliot Serhan.
"Our forwards then dominated proceedings and the entire team supported each other.
"The defence stayed just as strong as the first half, which was pleasing.
"Will Hobden had a great day in the number 7 jumper.
"He made many powerful runs and worked hard in defence.
"To their credit, the Griffins never gave up, but the Heelers just kept working forward, building pressure.
"They ventured into the attacking half a couple of times, however our defence stifled every opportunity."
With 15 minutes remaining, the bench was emptied and the reserves made the most of the chances in front of them.
Cody Page was barely on the park when he supported a hard-running Haywood, who gifted him a five-pointer.
Haywood, himself, would finish the game with three tries in a dominant midfield display.
The Griffins tried to the end but were simply outclassed 43-0.
"The attention now turns to this weekend's round seven fixture against Southern Lakes," Hall said.
"The Hammerheads sit above us on the ladder but with the game being played at Highbrook, the hosts will be keen to put on another strong display.
"Muswellbrook needs to consolidate its position on the ladder through this home game period to set itself up before the competition splits after round 11."
1. Alistair Buchanan and Elliot Serhan
2. Beau Haywood
3. Will Hobden
Players' player: Will Hobden