HEAVY HITTER: Lower Clarence Magpies forward Dalton Shaw carts the ball into the Casino Cougars defensive line during the club's trial game at Yamba Sports Field on Angourie Road.
HEAVY HITTER: Lower Clarence Magpies forward Dalton Shaw carts the ball into the Casino Cougars defensive line during the club's trial game at Yamba Sports Field on Angourie Road. Belinda Martyn

Magpies kick pre-season into high gear against Cougars

RUGBY LEAGUE: While their trial may have started slowly, there was nothing slow about the way the Lower Clarence Magpies finished the game as they look to a bright 2018 on the NRRRL fields.

Staring down the barrel of another hapless season down 22-0 to Casino Cougars at the first break, the black and whites were buoyed by the late arrival of front rower Ryan Binge who scored twice before the next break to even up the scores at 22-22.

While they could not come away with the win in the trial, with the match finishing 34-30 Casino's way, Binge said it put the side in good stead for the upcoming season.

"To be honest the score didn't matter too much to us at all,” he said. "We started a bit slow but the way we finished off the game was really great.

"This was about getting a few of the boys out, dusting off the cobwebs and getting some match fitness under the belts.

"We still have a few more senior blokes like Dan (Randall) and Tommy (Martin) to come into the side, but we will be better for the run.”

Nathan Essex filled in for the side at dummy-half, and Binge said he impressed enough that it would create a bit of competition for the number 9 spot with Martin.

Fiery forward Dalton Shaw was also impressive for the combined Magpies outfit, with the big red-headed prop carting the ball into the Cougars pack without a thought of self-preservation.

Hughie Stanley steered the side from five-eighth, and Binge said the experienced former Rebel has added plenty to the squad already this season, both on and off the field.

"I think you can really see a change in the commitment among the players this season,” Binge said. "I think a lot of that is because of Hughie. He has been a really good talker out on the field, and he has really pushed everyone to get to training, to turn up.

"He is the ingredient the club has been missing.”

Three matches of Ladies League Tag also featured on the day with Grafton Ghosts women securing wins against the Magpies and Cougars.

Ghosts co-coach Rhys Hambly praised the efforts of his team, with obvious pre-season work on the training paddock coming to the fore in their two winning efforts.

FULL TIME

Lower Clarence Magpies 30 (R Binge 3, C Mitchell, H Stanley, N Essex tries; H Stanley 3 goals) def by Casino Cougars 34