Wollongbar parties after first grand final win in 18 years
WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville has broken an 18-year premiership drought after thumping Lennox Head 35-11 in the Far North Coast Rugby Union grand final at Crozier Field, Lismore on Saturday.
It was only fitting that five-eighth and captain Ben Damen scored the final try of the match.
He kicked Lennox Head out of the game in general play and had a hand in most of the tries.
"It's a great feeling. The boys have worked really hard for this," Damen said.
"I was pretty lucky at the end there. I thought our winger was going to score but he left the ball behind for me."
Wollongbar came out nervous, with both wingers spilling high balls they would usually take with ease.
It didn't take long for James Vidler to settle from there as he bagged a try-scoring double before halftime.
Damen missed a conversion from directly in front as the Pioneers had to settle for an 18-6 lead at the break.
They were never going to get run down once the skipper offloaded a perfectly timed pass for centre Nathaniel Regueira to score under the cross-bar.
"We had the wind in the second half so I was pretty confident," Damen said.
"They have some big forwards and I was really happy how our boys aimed up."
The Trojans have nothing to be ashamed of as they fought hard for the full 80 minutes, losing second-rower Jack Bungate and halfback Scott Cardow to injuries along the way.
Props Jack Nash and Benn Wright did all they could while centre Paul Crozier was dangerous in open space.
Wright captained the side and was clearly frustrated with some of the decisions that went against them from Alan Thomas, who was refereeing his first FNC grand final in the top grade.
Five-eighth Adam Gordon was suspended earlier in the week and they played every final without their best player, Harry Witt.
"We threw our best at them and in the end we probably just didn't have enough depth," Lennox Head coach Jason McCombie said.
"I can't fault the effort from anyone and we knew it was going to be a tough game."
The Pioneers were always going to be hard to beat, with talented players from England, New Zealand and Sydney and a good mix of juniors from the club joining their ranks this year.
Previous coach Ben Grayndler also deserves a lot of credit for getting the side to consecutive grand finals before John Jenkins took over this season.
Wollongbar-Alstonville 35 (Ben Damen 2, James Vidler 2, Nat Regueira tries, Ben Damen 2 conversions, 2 penalty goals) def Lennox Head 11 (Harry Bungate try, Scott Cardow 2 penalty goals)
Half-time: Wollongbar 18 - Lennox 6
Lismore 34 (Cody Johnston, Ben Hart, Ben Mortimer, Sam Nilon, Stuart Rose tries, Chris Clark 2, Daniel O'Brien conversions, Cody Johnston drop goal) def Wollongbar Alstonville 18 (Josh Damen 2 tries, Tom Steer conversion, 2 penalty goals)
Half-time: Wollongbar 18 - Lismore 12
Lismore 29 (Rob O'Reilly, Ryan Graham, Stephen Hughes, Byron Robson tries, Josh Creighton 3 conversions, Todd Jones penalty goal) def Evans River 15 (Ben Lindsay, Brock Rhodes, Angus Feil tries)
Half-time: Lismore 14 - Evans 5
Lennox Head 24 (Jordan Beaumont 2, Lachlan Crawford tries, Connor Winchester 3 conversions, penalty goal) def Wollongbar-Alstonville 21 (Sam Dawson, Zak Galbraith, Hamish Mould tries, Sam Kerry 3 conversions)
Half-time: Lennox 17 - Wollongbar 7