Nelson Bay Gropers tune up for Old Boys and Memorial Day with crushing 64-14 win

Dynamic Nelson Bay fly half Ilisoni Vonomatairatu engineered the Gropers’ thumping 64-14 victory over Singleton Black Bulls last weekend.

ALL roads lead to Bill Strong Oval this Saturday when Nelson Bay Gropers Rugby Club hosts its annual Old Boys and Memorial Cups Day.

Local rugby fans are in for a treat with the club’s star studded men’s team and fast-improving women’s outfit in action against Medowie Marauders and Southern Beaches in their respective Suburban Rugby competition fixtures.

Former Gropers players, officials and supporters are urged to come along and watch the present day squads show their wares on a day that honours and perpetuates the memory of a distinguished list of late Nelson Bay rugby identities.

These include the likes of legendary flanker Rip Wright and premiership-winning prop Tama Wakairi and young Ben Clarke, the son of former Gropers President and Port Stephens fishing personality John ‘Stinker’ Clarke.

The curtain raiser kicks off at 1.40pm with Nelson Bay’s Under 16 juniors squaring off with Southern Beaches followed by the traditional men’s local derby fixture against the competitive Marauders.

Club President Gavin Rocher told News Of The Area that the Old Boys and Memorial Cups Day was “a much anticipated event on the Gropers’ rugby calendar”.

“We look forward to reconnecting with many former stalwarts and remembering all of our late comrades that gave sterling service to the club over the years,” quipped Rocher.

Michael Wiringi’s champion Nelson Bay men’s team sounded an ominous warning to rivals after blitzing Singleton Black Bulls 64-14 last Saturday in Presidents Cup action at Singleton’s Rugby Park.

Crackerjack fly half Ilisoni Vonomatairatu was the best on ground – capping a brilliant solo performance with three tries and five conversions for a personal tally of 25 points.

The dynamic number ten created havoc with his tricky step and turn of speed as the reigning premiers returned to their enterprising best.

He was supported by hard working breakaway Ronan O’Connell, second rowers Lewis Affleck and Sam Rocher, number eight Isaac Laracy, classy half back Khace Petera and gun fullback Will Dunn.

Nelson Bay led 26-7 at the break after Vonomatairatu bagged a first half try double and the dashing Dunn and centre Michael Hotene posted five pointers against the Bulls.

The Gropers turned on the style after the interval with the sharp Ilisoni securing a hat trick of tries and Dunn a deserved double with O’Connell, Laracy, prop Riley Byfield and winger Josh Sollitt completing a ten try rout.

Meanwhile, Hamilton Hawks had too many big guns for a depleted Nelson Bay side in the Hunter Rugby Women’s fixture at Hawkins Oval.

The Hawks registered a 76-0 victory against a Gropers line up that was forced to blood several debutants due to injury and unavailability of key players.

Dynamic Hamilton duo Taylah Bryde and Logan Flanagan were standouts, with centre Bryde contributing 34 points from four tries and seven goals and fullback Flanagan bagging five tries.

Nelson Bay were best served by centre Tash Harris, lock Chloe Zdebski and forward Katrece Duggan.

By Chris KARAS

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