The Moonshiners kicked off their 25th rugby season with an away trip to Evans Head last Saturday. The team has retained all 2012 players, welcomed back a couple of prodigal sons and picked up some excellent recruits.
A full squad of Shiners rolled into Evans with new coach Shane Ivey at the helm. Some hard trial games against hefty Gold Coast opposition paid dividends with the Shiners arriving ready to rumble with the Killer Whales.
Neon Leon Matchett-Oates led the charge early with some big hits and aggressive pilfering at the breakdown. Intelligent kicking by Nathan Nicholls and co had the Shiners dominating field possession.
The pressure was rewarded when Nicholls converted a penalty. Teale Pyne resumed where he left off in 2012 tackling low, hard and often. The backs were posing plenty of problems for the Evans defence and it was only handling errors preventing them from cashing in.
When Wally Andrews did cross the line the try was disallowed. Lucas ‘Smokin Joe’ Frazier shut down the Evans playmakers from breakaway.
The Shiners registered their first 5-pointer with a beautifully weighted kick from half way. Simon Hutton gave his substantial motor full throttle and tore down the wing. He nailed the Evans full back as he tried to clear the ball from the in goal area. The attempted kick was snaffled off the boot and grounded for a Hutton special and 10–0 half time lead.
Evans was happy to see the break and used it well to regroup. Their forwards upped the intensity in the second half with some effective rucking and mauling. Possession evened out and the Killer Whales were looking hungry.
Leon Matchett-Oates led a Shiners maul across the try line and despite Brad Walsh doing his best Superman impersonation to drive the pack to ground the ref’s call was ‘held up’. Evans took their chance when it came with a clever kick to expose an outnumbered Shiners defence on the wing. They scrambled over, the try was converted and the lead was cut to three points.
After half a dozen last minute losses over the past couple of seasons the Shiners’ faithful were edgy. Evans threw the kitchen sink at it. Scott Hazlewood-Potts had a great game in the second row and was leading the way as the young blokes absorbed the pressure and held their composure.
In a sign of improved presence and confidence the Shiners denied the Evans attack to win 10–7. While there is plenty for this young side to work on the continued improvement is clear to see.
Next week the Shiners are on the road to Ballina.