Nelson Bay Gropers down Pokolbin Reds to continue unbeaten run

Classy fly-half Illisoni Vonomatairatu politely declining the next dance with the Reds fullback on his way to a double helping of pie.

THE Nelson Bay Gropers popped the cork on the Pokolbin Reds at home on Saturday with a 46 to 14 victory that leaves them undefeated and on top of the table at the halfway mark of the 2023 season.

It was a sparkling winter’s day at the Groper Dome in front of a boisterous crowd with the can bar supplying the needed warming aluminium elixirs as the Marine Rescue manned BBQ area served up some heaven sent hot dogs.

The match started with some strong field positional play from the Reds, who were able to juggle both possession and territory deep into the Gropers’ half.

Some foundation-shaking defence from Gropers’ centre Michael Hotene and fullback Willy Dunn rattled the Reds bottles and fly-half Illisoni Vonomatairatu was able to turn them around with some pinpoint punts into touch off the boot.

From here the Gropers were able to use their impressive lineout prowess to pinch the Reds pill and as the piggies rumbled along local cult hero Nathan ‘Nugget’ McLeay found himself with daylight between him and the chalk crossing for the first of many five pointers.

Soon after it was Vonomatairatu’s turn to get in on the action, slicing through the Reds’ would-be-tacklers to grab the first of his double for the day.

It was then Hotene’s and Dunn’s time to shine, both catching some white line fever before the Reds crossed for a consolation try at the break taking the score to 24 to 7 as both teams reached for the pickle juice and Deep Heat.

As play resumed so did the dominant display from the Gropers squad, who were quick to open the account in the second stanza as points poured on the Reds.

Vonomatairatu and Dunn both crossed to bag a double, and with the crowd already at fever pitch, winger Kailen Williams went airborne in the corner to plant the ball and put the game away as fellow winger Tyler Blue grabbed a complimentary meat pie just before the final bell.

The final score 46 to 14 with Rhys Cutbush kicking 3 from 8 conversions.

Second rower Hamish Bartlett, number eight Isaac Larcy and hooker Tom Hickey were instrumental in the victory with Bartlett grabbing player’s player.

Gropers Coach Michael Wirinigi was pleased with the result but pointed to slip-ups in game awareness that need to be polished.

“It was a much better game this weekend but there were still a few lapses in concentration that led to turnovers, penalties and points,” said Wiringi.

“Our impact off the bench was outstanding with big Zion Takarua coming on in the second half and leading our pack and players.

“Pokolbin played with a lot of heart even when they were down on the board.”

This Saturday 24 June the Nelson Bay Gropers have all three grades at Bill Strong Oval Nelson Bay with the Under 18s kicking off at 1.50pm against Singleton Bulls, the Men kick off at 3.00pm against Singleton Bulls Red and the Women kick off at 4.30pm against Waratah.

The day will be a huge event with the club celebrating Memorial Day to honour previous players, coaches and committee members since the club’s inception in 1978.

For more information jump on the Gropers’ Facebook page.

By Mitch LEES

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