Northern Rivers’ slick backline paved the way for a crushing 60-26 win over Group 19 in the 2008 Toyota Centenary Trophy Country Rugby League match at Kingsfofrd Smith Park, Ballina, today.
Led by a three-try performance by Byron Bay Red Devils centre Clarence Kelly and two from flying South Tweed winger Glen Slockee, Northern Rivers shocked their more-fancied opponents.
Ballina five-eighth Ben Crawford crossed within five minutes of the kick-off, and it was one-way traffic from then on as Northern Rivers raced to a 38-0 half-time lead.
Group 19, which included former NRL stars Nathan Blacklock, Andrew Kaberry and Jason Ferris, appeared shell-shocked as halfback Willie Hammond (Lower Clarence) set his backline alight with an outstanding first-half performance.
Testament to the Northern Rivers performance was the fact that only one forward, Mullumbimby Giants lock Andrew Maroney, crossed for a try.
The Rivers forwards also dominated their rivals, setting the platform for the backs to run riot.
Nathan Blacklock, who was sporting a half-shaved hairstyle, played at fullback instead of on the wing, where he starred for St George in the NRL.
Now 32, he has lost some pace but still played a solid positional game to score two tries.
However, Blacklock was sin-binned just before half-time.
Former Cronulla five-eighth Jason Ferris was overshadowed by his opposite, Ben Crawford, who was one of his side’s best.
Clarence Kelly and Glen Slockee, with their great pace, were also among the stars.
Winger Fred Waters (Uralla) was a constant threat to Northern Rivers, and was rewarded with a try and three goals.
Northern Rivers now face a tough challenge in the next round at Dubbo, where they will play Illawarra.
- Northern Rivers 60 (Clarence Kelly 3, Glen Slockee 2, Willo James, Shannon Murphy, Ben Crawford, Willie Hammond, Andrew Maroney, Chad Grant tries; Willie Hammond 8 goals) d Group 19 26 (Nathan Blacklock 2, Fred Waters, Rodney Bull, Dan Vidler tries; Fred Waters 3 goals) at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.