Nelson Bay Gropers edge out previously unbeaten Cooks Hill 12-9 in rugby classic

Nelson Bay’s outstanding lock Sam Rocher wins another lineout for the Gropers during the 12-9 win over Cooks Hill at Hawkins Oval. In support are scrum half Jake Langsford, Lewis Affleck and prop Nathan McLeay.

HIGHLY regarded centre Michael Hotene is a genuine asset to Nelson Bay Rugby Club.

The premiership-winning number twelve has earned a golden reputation in the Hunter Suburban Rugby ranks for shutting down the best attacking weapons in the men’s competition with his no-nonsense defence.

Rugby enthusiasts at Hawkins Oval last Saturday witnessed the rugged Kiwi put on a defensive masterclass to help the second placed Gropers sink the previously unbeaten Cooks Hill Brown Snakes 12-9 in a torrid tussle.

Hotene was at his punishing best as he kept close tabs on the Brown Snakes’ gun centre pairing of Daniel Carr and Cameron Logan.

The Cooks Hill duo found it difficult to penetrate the Gropers line with the experienced Hotene chalking up several copybook tackles to stave off many a potential raid.

Nelson Bay’s stirring three point victory keeps the reigning premiers in second spot on 41 points behind leaders Singleton Red Bulls (45) and avenged the club’s opening round loss to Cooks Hill back in April.

Hotene capped a superb game in attack and defence as the Gropers registered their eighth successive triumph in the 2024 series.

Head Coach Michael Wiringi told News Of The Area that his leading centre was a valuable figure for the remainder of this year’s campaign.

“Michael is one of our trump cards and gives us stability in defence and plenty of strike in the back division leading up to the finals,” reflected Wiiringi.

The Gropers led 7-6 at the break following a neat try by ace fullback Will Dunn from a passing rush and sealed victory when barnstorming prop Riley Byfield crashed over to score with ten minutes left on the clock.

Cooks Hill stayed in the hunt with three penalty goals from the trusty boot of Logan.

Tireless lock Sam Rocher proved a dynamo in the lineouts and was supported by number eight Mitch Workman, talented halves Khace Petera and Jake Langsford and industrious forwards Lewis Affleck, Ronan O’Connell and former Wildfires skipper Adam Edwards.

The veteran Edwards produced a non-stop performance in his comeback match for the Gropers and shapes as a key forward leader for the big matches ahead.

Nelson Bay women toppled Cooks Hill 19-0 in a shortened fixture with top displays from dynamic fly half Sophie Collins, number eight Sierra Nowlan and centre Tash Harris.

The Gropers will celebrate this weekend’s Indigenous Round by hosting Singleton Black Bulls on Saturday at Bill Strong Oval from 3pm with the women’s side to face Wanderers at Newcastle’s No 2 Sportsground at 11.50am.

By Chris KARAS

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