The Iluka Cossacks returned to Iluka for their first game of rugby in 3 years last Saturday when they took on last years’ premiers Kyogle at the picturesque Iluka sports field. After a come from behind win in the first round against the highly fancied Yamba Buccaneers, there was an air of excitement around the village that the Cossacks were back and in a big way. The town faithful didn’t disappoint and turned out in record numbers to see the locals go round and the players certainly did not let their supporters down.
The game was played in what can only be described as cyclonic wind conditions as both teams struggled to adapt. The strength of the wind was evident when Kris Thomsen’s first clearing kick from the Cossacks try line went dead at the other end of the field and a camper from Woody Head eventually returned the ball. One of Kyogle’s kick restarts actually landed on their own 20 metre line much to the delight of the crowd.
Iluka began strongly and in their first attacking raid scored an entertaining try from a sweeping backline movement, brilliantly finished off by the flying Chris Mitchell. In the first 20 minutes, the big Kyogle forward pack were dominating the locals and good ball was hard to come by. The Cossacks have learnt to be patient this year and the strategy of wearing the opposition down and running them off their legs late in the halves is proving fruitful. There is no doubt the Cossacks boast the quickest backline in the competition and there will be plenty of tries scored this year.
Iluka went to half time leading 33-0 with a rush of tries in the last 10 minutes. Ably led by Thomsen, the forwards had lifted their game and quality ball was delivering many opportunities out wide. Andrew Kappeen was dominant and was proving a handful whenever he touched the ball and his younger charges were having a field day. The crowd held its’ breath when Jack Shaw, not known for his ball control and playing his first game of rugby, scored a great wingers try on the stroke of halftime.
The second half was always going to be a struggle as Iluka ran into the gale and the locals spent almost the entire half defending their line. The team spoke during the week about pride in their defence and it was a credit to the playing group that they held Kyogle scoreless. Iluka eventually ran out winners 47-0 and in the process scored one of the tries of the year. Playing with confidence, the Cossacks ran the ball from their own try line and when the play looked like dying another Cossack player would turn up in support with Dalton Shaw capping off a fine game with a try under the posts.
The Cossacks sounded a warning that they will be a contender at the back end of the year as the wealth of talent begins to gel. While there were strong performances everywhere the contribution by new flanker Uitime Laefkvst (great scrabble word) was immeasurable. Welcome to the club Witty.
It’s off to Ballina this week for what should be an interesting game. Ballina, one of the early favourites have struggled with numbers this year but the pending availability of their under 18’s could see us in for a tough afternoon. Anyway, you can only play what is in front of you so the Cossacks are looking forward to yet another test, our first game on the road.