CRL Newcastle have won their second straight game at home, knocking over the Sharks 16-4 to stay undefeated since the multi-week Easter break that split the early rounds.
The win takes the CRL’s home-side record to 3-0, and keeps the side on the path coach Rick Stone set for them at the start of the season – make Newcastle a fortress, and build a tilt for the finals from that solid position.
Melanie Howard played a major role in the 12-point win, as the Newcastle halfback crossed early to get the home side off the mark. Howard’s opening four-pointer, slammed home after a dummy from the play-the-ball gave her an opening, was created off the back of a half-field run from Simone Smith.
The Newcastle fullback came alive at the halfway mark, putting a left step on her square defender to grab an opening. A lengthy kick chase put her just five metres out from the white line, and Howard’s fake to the left, and her conversion moments later, put Newcastle up 6-nil.
Talei Holmes nicked one back for the Sharks, crossing in the corner, but Newcastle held on to their 6-4 lead heading into the half.
Smith got her own try on the half hour mark, as Bobbi Law broke through the centres on the right flank and lofted a pass to her fullback to put down next to the posts. After her try assist efforts five minutes before, Law smashed past Tiana Penitani and Talei Holmes and edged the lead out to a comfortable 12-point gap.
Newcastle’s gritty win moves them to 3-2 in the standings, and third behind the North Sydney Bears and the Mounties (both undefeated in five outings). For head coach Rick Stone, the 3-0 record at home is the most important part of his side’s run in 2019 so far.
“We spoke about it ahead of the season, and then again during, and we said we all wanted to make a bit of a statement about being hard to beat at home in Newcastle,” he said. “The team should be more comfortable here at home, and we want to take that advantage of the travelling side being uncomfortable into all our home games every weekend.
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“Now we just have to turn our attention to our travel record, we may have to tinker with that a bit but not too much. We lost two really tight games to North Sydney and the Mounties, both of whom are undefeated, so it’s only small things we need to change.
“Hopefully next time we play down there in Sydney again we can get the monkey off our backs, and get that first away win to start the points rolling down south.”
Stone also faces a challenge in the coming weeks as eight of his Newcastle stars are plucked from selection and sent into the brown and yellow colours of the NSW Country representative side. All three of Newcastle’s scorers from the 16-4 win over the Sharks have been selected, alongside five others.
“We have a good representative cohort going to the National Championships, but we also have some girls that won’t head to that that really have been holding the team together as well,” Stone said of the impending selection headache.
“There are a few unsung heroes in our team that will stand up for me I’m sure, Tezmyne [Luschwitz] and Tayla [Predebon] have both been two that have been terrific for us so far.
“We’ll manage this National Championship period well I’m sure, all the clubs have the same issues. If we can stay fresh through that time, I’m sure we can have a real crack at the business end of the season.”
CRL Newcastle now has their third straight home game on the weekend. They are set to face St Mary’s Saints at Dudley Oval on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is at 1.40pm.