Trojans make it three in a row
THE Lennox Head Trojans first-grade rugby team last Saturday won their third consecutive Far North Coast premiership with a 28-20 defeat of Ballina in the grand final at Crozier Field in Lismore.
Not a bad effort for the club that in its first year in first grade in 2006 won just one game, and finished last.
Things didn’t improve in 2007 when the first-grade side didn’t win a game.
Club president, David Kiddle, was coach in those years.
“Believe it or not when we first went up to first grade we had a three-year plan that we would be competitive at the end of those three years,” he said.
“At the end of that third year we won a premiership, which we didn’t expect, and I guess we were fortuitous to have a handful of really good players turn up in 2008.
“But I wouldn’t have tipped us to win three in a row back then.
“Second grade winning (on Saturday) was really exciting for us because it means we are a club with some depth and talent.”
It is only the third time a club has won three consecutive first-grade premierships, following Coffs Harbour’s eight straight from 1973 to 1980 and Ballina’s dominant era of five premierships from 1997 to 2001.
The reserve grade victory also means the Trojans now only need to win an Under-19 title to have won every premiership on offer in the local competition.
Premierships have been won in third grade in 1999 and 2001, Village competition 2004, first grade 2008-2010 and reserve grade 2010.
Not bad for a club that was established only in 1999.
In the grand final game, the Trojans drew first blood with a penalty goal from scrum half Adam Gordon after nine minutes.
Ballina squared things up soon after, before Lennox poked its nose in front with another Gordon penalty, taking the score to 6-3.
It took until the 21st min-ute for either side to have their try line breached.
A Lennox Head clearing kick could not have bounced more horribly for Ballina, spiking at right angles away from its defenders and into the appreciative arms of a flying Tony Buchanan.
The winger sprinted 30 metres to score the game’s opening try and Gordon’s conversion made it 11-3 to the Trojans.
Two more Gordon penalties and one to Ballina saw Lennox moved to a 17-6 lead, as both sides tried to capitalise on an avalanche of penalties awarded through the game.
But after a lacklustre half in terms of attack, late in the first period a dropped ball by Ballina metres from their line put them under pressure.
The ensuing scrum gave the Trojans’ backline room to move for one of the few times in the match, and after sending it wide through the hands on the eastern side of the ground, winger Matthew Aherne finished well.
Aherne’s try – which was not converted from out wide – gave Lennox a handy 22-6 lead at the break.
It was one the Trojans would have to rely on in the second half, as Ballina clawed their way back.
This was thanks in large part to a lack of discipline from the Trojans, as referee Graham Cook came close to wearing out his whistle for regular indiscretions at the breakdown.
But while Ballina continued to muscle-up to Lennox, it wasn’t until the 67th min-ute Ballina finally got across the line when Liam Preston pushed over to score.
The successful conversion took the score to 22-13.
Then, with less than five minutes to go, Under-19s player of the year Jake Smith gave Ballina a glimmer of hope as he dived over to score. The conversion brought the score to 22-20, and the Trojans’ comfortable half time margin was gone.
But when Ballina conceded another penalty, Trojans centre Brandon Boniface calmly slotted a kick from more than 40 metres out to take the score to 25-20.
Lennox kept the ball at the right end of the park for the final minutes, before fly half Mathew Barnes snapped a field goal from close range in the last play of the game.
The full-time siren was the signal for a tidal wave of die-hard Trojans fans to rush on to the ground to celebrate with their players, those helmets at the ready.
LENNOX HEAD 28 (Tony Buchanan, Matthew Aherne tries; Adam Gordon 4, Braidon Boniface penalty goals; Mathew Barnes drop goal) d BALLINA 20 (Liam Preston, Jake Smith tries; Adam Fisher 2 conversions, 2 penalty goals). Half-time: 22-6. Referee: Graham Cook.