The Yamba Buccaneers are one win away from playing finals after defeating cross-river rivals the Iluka Cossacks 32-25 in the Far North Coast Rugby Union President’s Cup competition in Yamba on Saturday.
Needing a win to stay in finals’ contention and hoping to reverse the result from the first time these two sides played earlier in the season, a two-point win to Iluka, the Buccaneers started strongly and raced out to an early 15-point lead.
But Iluka started to grow into the game and finished the first half in exhilarating fashion, scoring 25 unanswered points to lead 25-15 at the break.
Half time came at the perfect time for Yamba, giving them an opportunity to halt Iluka’s momentum and get some players back on the pitch after their ‘Dad’s Army’ of Kris Thomsen, Robbie Hill and Adrian Miller all suffered serious injuries in the first half.
The second half was all Yamba, as they managed to exert pressure on Iluka and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Iluka were willing in defence but couldn’t get their game going and when Joel Imeson scored in the corner with the last play of the game – his third try for the match – the Buccaneers had completed an excellent come-from-behind victory.
Yamba number one ticketholder Captain Bucc said the game was a typical Yamba-Iluka derby.
“This game had everything – a big crowd, big hits, great tries and sin-bins,” he said.
“It was exactly what you would expect to see in a Yamba-Iluka game.”
Bucc said the young Yamba side showed composure beyond their experience.
“The really impressive thing was how the young fellas in the team stood up at critical moments,” he said.
“There were a couple of old heads to guide them, such as Bede Hunt, Chris Williams and Terry Hill, but in reality, the young fellas really stood up and took it on themselves to get the team back into the match and turn the tide in their favour.”
Best players on the day were Imeson, Terry and Robbie Hill and Williams.
Bucc said it all comes down to the last game of the season against Evans River on July 24.
“This game is for all the marbles – win it and we play finals, lose and it’s a long time until the next game,” he said.
The Buccaneers will have extra motivation for the game. Not only are they playing for a finals’ spot, but it is Old Boys and Sponsors’ Day as well. There will also be a tribute at the conclusion of the match for former Buccaneer Peter ‘Doodles’ McDonnell who passed away recently.
Kick-off is 3pm on 24 July at Yamba Oval.