The Yamba Buccaneers have caused the upset of the season by defeating Richmond Range 24-19 in the Far North Coast Rugby Union President’s Cup competition in Yamba on Saturday.
The Buccaneers were raging underdogs against a team which had lost only once all season, and that by only one point to defending premiers Byron Bay.
But Yamba hit the ground running and were immediately on the front foot when they scored early in the game from new recruit Campbell Watchirs.
It was a mercurial finish with Watchirs somehow scoring in the corner even though he was airborne and being tackled by three Range defenders.
It wasn’t long before Watchirs scored again, this time almost untouched from 30 metres out. Nathan Hollis added the extras and at half time the Buccs lead 12-0.
Range’s strength is their forwards, but Yamba matched it with them and dominated the lineouts and rucks. The front foot ball was well utilised by the backs and strong defence by everyone ensured Range weren’t able to gather any real momentum.
Yamba knew Range would start the second half strongly and so it proved, with Range scoring early to close the gap.
Yamba extended their lead again through Joel Imeson, but Richmond responded to stay in touch at 19-14 with less than 15 minutes left.
Range pummelled the Yamba line, but the Buccs held out, and when they were awarded, a late penalty try the game was safe. Range scored last to secure the losing bonus point, but there wasn’t enough time to overtake Yamba and the Buccs held on for a famous, well-earned victory.
Club number one ticketholder Captain Bucc said this was a victory for the ages.
“Honestly, no one gave the lads a snowflake’s chance in hell of beating Range – we thought they were too big, well drilled and experienced,” he said.
“But it just goes to show the heart of this team – at no stage where they overawed, and they played brilliant rugby.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a better game from a Buccaneers team in years.”
Captain Bucc said the recruitment of Watchirs and his dad, Christopher, was timely.
“It’s not often players get recruited from the major sponsor the night before a game, but we’ll let Joel Imeson tell the full story of that recruitment. But it proved a masterstroke,” Bucc said.
“Campbell scored two excellent tries but, in all honesty, Yamba were the better side for most of the game and probably would have won without him.
“It’s hard to single any players out as they all played well, but Watchirs, captain Robbie Hill, James Hawley and Nathan Hollis were outstanding.”
Yamba face competition leader Byron Bay in Byron on Saturday. Next home game is against Iluka on July 10.