THINGS are looking promising for New England on and off the rugby field.
While the representative teams showed some encouraging signs for the upcoming Country Championships in their trial hit-outs against Central North on Saturday, things are looking up for the competition itself with Guyra set to rejoin first grade this season.
The Ghosts dropped out of first grade last season going back to third grade, where they won the premiership, but have been included in the first grade draw for this season.
The draw was released yesterday with the Ghosts’ inclusion making for a five-team competition.
It’s set to kick-off on April 6 – two weekends after the Country Championships in Tamworth.
The Lions opens head into those as the defending Richardson Shield champions and from what they showed on Saturday they’re on the right track for giving it a good crack.
“It was a great hit-out,” coach Sam Piddington said.
They hadn’t had a lot of time together and early on looked a bit disjointed but the longer the game went on the more they settled into their rhythm.
In the third quarter they even seemed to have the Kookaburras’ measure and after conceding three tries in the second quarter almost got back on level terms.
“There were a lot of positives,” Piddington said.
“For a smaller zone the boys punched above their weight.”
“They are a big side.”
But Piddington felt they matched up well.
“The aggression at the breakdown was good,” he said.
“The scrum held well and the lineout had its moments.”
At times they seemed to have it over the Kookaburras in the scrums.
“Just at stages we got a bit tired and our one-on-one tackles didn’t help us,” Piddington said.
They missed a few and the Kookaburras punished them for it.
That was the problem in the second quarter with the Kookaburras scorching them with some quick fast play down the blindside.
The Lions didn’t see a lot of ball in the second period and had to do a lot of defending.
Pleasingly for Piddington they regrouped and after scoring late in the second quarter strung some good passages of play together.
“We’ve just got to work on a few more combinations,” he said.
After Saturday he has a better idea of what combinations will serve them best.
“(James) Reynolds and Keith (Ellis) went well at five-eighth and inside centre,” he said.
“In the backrow Sam Clements and Dave Healey were good and the back three worked well – James Perrett, Pete Weiss and Lachie Perkins.”
Perkins set up their second try with a strong run on a kick return.
Reynolds was also impressive up against much older opposition, while Ellis was hard to handle and was at the centre of a lot of the Lions attack.