Forwards prove difference as Grafton takes back DEX Shield
SCHOOL LEAGUE: Staring down a 12-6 defecit at half time, it was a spirited talk from Grafton High School coach Aaron Hartmann that inspired his troops to glory.
Grafton were a changed outfit emerging from the sheds on a chilly night at McKittrick Park as they outmuscled Maclean High 24-16 to clinch The Daily Examiner Opens Shield.
Led from the front by hooker Jacob Ryan and resilient front-rowers Adam Kleindeinst and Chris Harris, Grafton High 'Goats' got the roll over Maclean in the second half to fly home with a wet sail.
A late try from Maclean High dummy-half Tom Simpson brought the Bats back into the contest at 18-16 but it was a Kleindeinst barge across that sealed the Shield for the Goats.
"It was a good performance in the end," Hartmann said. "I think we were on a bit of a cruise mode in the first half, but we had a bit of a chat at half time and the boys certainly came out in the second half and ripped in and increased the intensity.
"It was about just being dominant, finding our front, and just really simple stuff basically because I knew we had the talent in the side that if we found our go forward we were going to be hard to stop."
The battle of the fullbacks lit up McKittrick Park through the middle stages of the clash as Maclean High's maestro Gordon Ugle tried to wrestle the game back in his side's favour only to be stopped by Grafton's Brayden Lollback.
But it was the Grafton forward pack who proved all the difference with a lack of player numbers taking away the forwards rotation and forcing some to play the full 80 minutes.
One of those who did play the full game was Grafton lock Lachlan Barnes who refused to give an inch to his opposition and in turn earned the Player of the Final honours.
"This is huge for our school, for a lot of the Year 12 boys in that side this is their last bit of school footy so what a way to go out on," Hartmann said.
"I am proud of them, we were really low on numbers coming into this, I had front rowers who played the entire game. Adam Kleindeinst, young Barnesy who has come to us from South, my middle boys didn't get any rotation so they are very deserving of the crown."
Hartmann commended Maclean High for a tough game of football, and said he was just happy he got to witness it first hand.
The Opens final was not the only entertainment for the night, with girls league tag sides from Grafton High, Maclean High and South Grafton High all putting on a great show for the healthy crowd in the stands.
Maclean High clinched the league tag honours after a thrilling victory over Grafton High punctuated by a double to exciting star Francine Vesper.
Daily Examiner Shield organiser Janita Cooper said she was ecstatic with the how the night came off and suggested it was a major success for school football.
"I think it was very successful, just to see the crowd here and all the kids enjoying themselves," she said. "I am ecstatic, I am really excited. I was doing the Daily Examiner Shield rain hail or shine. We had no other option.
"I just feel the atmosphere was back here tonight that hasn't been here for a while."
SCORELINE: GRAFTON HIGH 24 (Jacob Ryan 2, Adam Kleindeinst, Bailey Sinclair tries; Jacob Ryan 3, Brayden Lollback goals) def MACLEAN HIGH 16 (Nathan Hollis, Gordon Ugle, Tom Simpson tries; Brian Anderson, Tye Delahney goals)
Explosive players help Maclean High to romping Under-14s win
UNDER 14s: He is known by his Maclean High School under-14 team mates as the "mini David Klemmer" and it is a fitting description for second rower Jack Roberts, who tore through the South Grafton High defence as the Bats clinched The Daily Examiner rugby league shield.
Roberts was a wrecking ball as he found his way to the try line twice and kicked a conversion from the sideline to earn the Player of the Final award.
Maclean front rower Thyrus Brown also scored a double as the Bats romped their way to a 52-0 drubbing at McKittrick Park, which followed on from their 42-0 win in the round games.
While his side was on the wrong end of a big margin, South coach Matt McKee said he was proud of his side for showing up for the final despite their heavy loss a fortnight ago.
The win made it two U14 shields in a row for Maclean High.
SCORELINE: MACLEAN HIGH 52 (Jack Roberts 2, Thyrus Brown 2, Tallon Anderson, Mason Bultitude, Tye Eamens-Gardiner, Tyler Essex, Jake Lenard tries; Roberts 3, Bultitude 2, Lenard, Dawson Vesper, Izzak Wheeler goals) def SOUTH GRAFTON HIGH 0