A GUT wrenching loss from a drawn match ended Central North’s hopes of a Country Championships in Mudgee on the weekend.
It wasn’t all bad news for Central North however, with the Colts taking the NRMA Shield with two great wins.
The Colts thrashed Mid North Coast on Saturday 50-10, before grinding a 16-10 win over Illawarra in the final. They will move into the top tier next year and have five players under consideration for the NSW Country Squad.
The Kookaburras squared up against a well drilled Newcastle on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildfires are perennial favourites of the championships and haven’t lost the Caldwell Cup since 2005.
Central North coach Ross Duncan said the team were fired up for the challenge and went in with an aggressive mindset.
Central North got off to a flyer in what was a sometimes scrappy but very physical tussle.
A try in the first half put the Kookaburras in the lead, which they kept for almost the entire game.
“We were up by 10 with 10 minutes to go and we let a soft try in,” Duncan said. “We then kicked the ball out on the full from the kick off and the momentum went all their way.”
The conversion was missed leaving the Wildfires trailing by five points.
The Kookaburras were desperately scrambling in defence as Newcastle camped on their line.
With three minutes remaining big inside centre Carl Manu crashed over in the corner to level the scores at 25 all. Newcastle’s Ben Hariss had the chance to win it but didn’t make the kick.
“For a while there we thought we had it because we scored first,” Duncan said. After some discussion the game was awarded to Newcastle because they scored four tries to CN’s three.
“Some crucial decisions late in the game cost us badly,” Duncan said.
“It is a very disappointing way to lose a game that we should have won.”
It didn’t get any easier for CN on Sunday drawing Illawarra in the play-off for third and fourth.
After the powerhouses were beaten by the red hot Central West the previous day they had a point to prove.
“We had a bit of a hangover after our little choke the day before and couldn’t replicate that style of play,” Duncan said.
“They had a big pack and were winning the confrontation at the breakdown.”
Illawarra played a fast and hard game dominating the whole time to win 30-8.
Pirates centre Jake Douglas was one of CN’s best despite an injury, as was flanker Josh Stewart.
“Josh Leys, Blake Pollock, and George Duddy all stood up as well,” Duncan said.
The hosts Central West did end Newcastle’s reign controlling the final to beat them 36-14.