Story Peter Griffin
Bangalow Rugby wore down Southern Cross University 32–27 to win a hugely entertaining opening-day spectacle at Rebels Stadium on Saturday. The six-try bonus-point victory is the perfect start for the Rebels, who are aiming to play finals football this season after being narrowly denied for the past three seasons in First Grade.
The Rebels could not catch a football in the opening ten minutes and the 10–0 early deficit was probably kind to the home side.
The Rats came to play and their new-look backline combined great tempo with width, urgency, and a masterclass kicking game while their forwards delivered enough potency in defence to rattle the Bangalow big men.
At the twenty-minute mark Bangalow playmaker Ben Farrow produced a forty-metre kick deep behind the students’ right wing. An appreciative Bangalow forward pack finally took control and with a polished inevitability drove towards the line. The comeback king John Turagabeci powered over the line. University responded with confidence to extend their lead before Dan Hill found himself in unfamiliar open space and running half the field from his own line. Bangalow captain Tim Mundy levelled the contest 17-all on the stroke of half-time.
It was apparent immediately after the break that the Rebels’ heads were now firmly screwed on.
Otty Fifita found his running game to deliver the momentum absent in the first half, Isaac Hill was a force of nature, and fullback Frank Lilomaiava’s free-spirited running electrified the home crowd.
Pressure eventually told the story with a mounting penalty count and the sin-binning of the University prop. The Rebels opted for a scrum; Tim Mundy deftly controlled the ball at No 8 and the captain powered over for his second try. Fifita’s hard running was also rewarded with a brace and as the shadows lengthened the Rebels’ backline executed a wonderful set piece to send Darryl Kepu through a yawning gap after excellent work from Farrow. The visitors replied with a try in the final seconds of the game to earn a deserved bonus point.
In the end it was a dominant second-half performance from the work-in-progress Rebels.
Issac Hill was best on ground; he was well supported by Mundy, Fifita and the enigmatic Farrow.
The Rebels capped the club’s best start to a season in some years with a sterling 24-all draw in reserve grade.
The club travels to beef country next week to meet Casino.