The Group 4 men’s side lost both its matches at the Greater Northern Tigers Championships at Scully Park on Saturday, but coach Paul Hyson does not believes there is a big gulf between his side and Groups 21 and 19.
The under-23 men lost their first game to Group 21, going down 28-12 in the morning after leading 12-10 at halftime, and then fell apart in a 38-nil loss to Group 19 in the afternoon.
Twice in the first half against Group 21 they fought back to regain the lead, the first time after a neat Scott Berry pass put Gunnedah prop Lincon Smith over beside the posts to celebrate his 20th birthday.
Then new Manilla captain-coach Mitch Doring scored after Werris Creek’s Zac Leonard made a good bust.
Group 4 surrendered the lead early in the second half when Scone prop Isaac Austin scored his second try of the match.
Halfback James Bradley (Singleton) and five-eighth Luke Rees (Denman) then crossed for Group 21 to deliver a 28-12 win.
Coach Hyson said Group 4 was “our own worst enemy” after “silly little mistakes”.
But despite being comprehensively beaten in both matches, he does not believes there is a big class gap between Group 4 and Groups 19 and 21.
He said “we were every bit as good as Group 21 in the first game, probably bar five minutes”.
“I don’t think there’s that big of a gulf, to be honest,” he said.
While the refereeing decisions went against the side, he said Group 21 controlled the ball better in the second half. “They finished better than us,” he said.
North Tamworth hooker Ryan Ingram was one of the Bushrangers’ best, along with Boggabri’s Matt Gillham, Narrabri’s Jock Small, the G4 captain, and big Gunnedah prop Smith.
In the second match Group 19 were always in control, converting an early 12-nil lead into a 24-nil halftime advantage.
Three more tries added to the Group 4 woes in what Greater Northern Tigers regional manager Scott Bone said was “trying conditions”.
“It was very hot and trying conditions for all the players. I’d like to thank all the players and their coaches,” he said.
Group 4 did manage to score some success on the representative sheet, with Doring named at halfback and Boggabri’s Matt Gillham named at hooker in the Tigers’ side.
Smith and fellow Gunnedah forward Hayden Smith won berths on the bench, as did North Tamworth’s Mitch Sheridan and Small.
Peter Stevens is the Tigers coach. He will have at least three training sessions in Tamworth with his side before it plays North Coast at Coffs Harbour on March 9 in a first-round Country Championship match.
GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS DIVISIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday – Scully Park.
GROUP 21 28 (Isaac Austin 2, James Bradley, Jason Hovi, Luke Rees tries, Will Nieuwenhuise 3 Harry Douglas gls) d GROUP 4 12 (Lincon Smith, Mitch Doring tries, Luke Small, Mitch Sheridan gls).
GROUP 21 18 (Jacob Button, Hamish Wolfgang, James Bradley tries, Harry Douglas 2, William Nieuwenhuise gls) d GROUP 19 16 (James Ballinger 2, Dewayne Nicholls tries, Tristan Ward, Jayden Smith gls).
GROUP 19 38 (Luke French 2, Zeke Dennis, Bailey Cosgrove, Dewayne Nicholls, Tyrell Smith, Jayden Smith tries, Tristan Ward 2, Jayden Smith 2, Chris McIntyre gls) d GROUP 4 0.
GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS UNDER-23 MEN:
1 Will Nieuwenhuise (Singleton), 2 Harry Douglas (Aberdeen), 3 Hamish Wolfgang (Aberdeen), 4 Cameron French (Aberdeen), 5 Tristan Ward (Moree Boomerangs), 6 James Bradley (Singleton), 7 Mitch Doring (Manilla), 8 Isaac Austin (Scone), 9 Matt Gillham (Boggabri), 10 James Ballinger (Inverell), 11 Jordan Mulherin (Denman), 12 Brady Benkovic (Denman), 13 Andrew Pritchard (Denman), 14 Mitch Sheridan (North Tamworth), 15 Lincon Smith (Gunnedah), 16 Jock Small (Narrabri), 17 Scott McIntyre (Armidale), 18 Hayden Smith (Gunnedah), 19 Luke Rees (Denman), Dewayne Nicholls (Moree Boomerangs). Coach – Peter Stevens.