Central North Rugby: Walcha five-eighth Simon Newton to play against Gunnedah

Good run: A Tamworth defender tries to drag down Walcha breakaway Sandy Cameron during their recent clash. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060517GGI04
Good run: A Tamworth defender tries to drag down Walcha breakaway Sandy Cameron during their recent clash. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060517GGI04

Country’s loss will be Walcha’s gain with five-eighth Simon Newton set to line up for the Rams against Gunnedah on Saturday.

The match of the round, both sides head in unbeaten with the only blemish for the Red Devils a draw against Moree in the first round.

“It’ll be a really good gauge,” Rams co-coach Hyde Thomson said.

“We’re looking forward to testing ourselves.”

The Rams were looking like being without both Newton and inside centre Pat Keen after they were named in the Country training squad, but Newton elected to forgo playing for the Cockatoos.

It was welcome news for the Rams, with their general in sparkling form, and Thomson said the team was appreciative and respectful of his decision.

He said discipline had been a big focus this week.

”We were a bit illdisciplined against Inverell. We gave away too many penalties,” he said.

He also spoke about increasing their intensity in defence and getting up in the oppositions face.

”Picking up our hassle and taking away their space,” he said.

“We’ve got the backs to score the points. We’ve just got to stop them scoring.”

In other games Moree are home to Scone, Pirates travel down to Quirindi, Barraba host Inverell, and Tamworth welcome a Narrabri side containing a former Magpie in Mitch Wheaton.

Wheaton will line up at number eight, pushing to the back of the scrum from the second row in one of a couple of changes from the side that thrashed Quirindi 66-15.

A double try-scorer playing on the wing last week, Linton Grumley meanwhile returns to the pack as coach Dylan Duncan juggles the loss of Matt McDonnell and Jack Sharp.

“He’s (Grumley) not normally a winger. Normally he plays at six or seven. He was only filling a hole for us,” Duncan said.

“He’s definitely our most versatile player in the club.”

“He said the other day the only position he hasn’t played is the front row.”

Duncan was happy with the way they played against the Lions, bouncing back after a disappointing performance against Moree.

“That game against Moree was a really good wake-up call for our group,” he said.

That said, they played better than the scoreline indicated, but were caught off guard early by the Bulls and dropped a lot of ball.

Ball handling will be a big factor on Saturday with the expected wet conditions, and is something the Blue Boars have worked on a bit this week after pushing the pass a few times.

“In wet weather the team that hangs onto the footy generally wins the game,” Duncan said.

Meanwhile, North West have finished eighth in the NSW Combined High Schools Rugby Championships at Armidale.

The home side lost the play-off for seventh and eighth spots on Friday.

Sydney East won the match 29-24.

North West won one of their four matches.

They beat Riverina 26-7 on day one on Wednesday.