Magpies down but not disgraced

With the Magpies 18’s squad not playing this week the Magpies travelled to Clifford Park with three grades. The Ladies League Tag squad starting the day with a strong and convincing 32-10 win. The girls looking the goods from the kick off and continued their strong form after last week’s win over front runners Ballina and with renewed confidence. The girls followed up some strong defence with plenty of well structured play to score a number of long range tries. With only one fixture left the squad seem determined to finish the 2018 season on a high when they face 5th placed Murwillumbah next week. With a win against Murwillumbah the Magpies will finish one point out of the top five, ending what will still be considered a successful 2018 campaign for the squad who began the season with many participants who have never played league tag, and have continued to push sides above them on the ladder. No matter the outcome the girls can be proud of their efforts throughout the season. With playing stocks for both the clubs first and reserve grade squads at an all time low, players backing up in firsts after having played full games for reggies has become the norm over the past month and the match against Northern over the weekend was no different. Ryan Binge, Grant Brown, Pat Hughes and first grade second rower Alex McMillan returning from overseas, were all included in the reserve grade squad run on side. Played in searing heat the game started poorly for the Magpies with Northern scoring three unanswered tries before the Magpies mounted a comeback to go to the break behind 18-6 on the scoreboard. In a free flowing second half both teams traded blows with both sides scoring some well structured tries, the game was played with great competitive spirit with both sides not in finals contention opened up with Northern eventual winners with the final score 34-40. With five players in first grade taking the field with only time to change jerseys and a bench loaded with players who had just completed a full game in reserve grade the Magpies were determined to compete, with the first half played at blistering speed in humid conditions both sides hammered each other in defence with the physicality of the defence more akin to two sides playing for a finals spot. Some clever play and the bounce of the ball put Northern in front 22-28 on the scoreboard at halftime with some resilient defence from the Magpies keeping them within reach. The second half again opened up with the Magpies succumbing to fatigue midway through the second stanza, something that was more a case of when and not if, with so many players already having completed seventy minutes of football before having to face another fast and physical eighty minutes. The final score going to Northern 26-56. The game was played with great mutual respect for each other from both sides with both clubs facing the same player numbers issues throughout the season and both sides showing glimpses of great football throughout both senior grades. Both clubs will be left to lament what could have been at the end of the 2018 season, but they both appear to have the foundation to build on for the 2019 season. This weekend the Magpies head to Murwillumbah determined to finish the season with heads held high, for those who have continued to be loyal to each other for the past two months, for what has been a tough and at times heartbreaking time. John Elisaia