CRL Newcastle have stretched their undefeated record at home to four from four, after an emphatic 34-6 win over the Saints at Dudley Oval last weekend.
The 28-point win marks the end of a three-game stretch of home fixtures. After Rick Stone set the challenge of “turning Newcastle into a fortress” in the Women’s Premiership, it looks like the side has succeeded. The CRL side scored 84 points across the three outings at Dudley Oval, and conceded just 16 in reply.
One key figure in Newcastle’s scintillating run of home-form has been commanding half Melanie Howard. The team’s halfback has scored in each of the clashes at Dudley Oval, and added seven goals from the two games she was the designated kicker.
“We’ve had a bit of attacking run at home for sure, we’ve gone to Bobbi Law in the centres as a strike weapon and had Simone Smith in at fullback who can break from anywhere,” Howard said of the side’s forward momentum since returning from the Easter break. “Our defence has been really solid all year now too, so to add that attacking strength to the game really helps us get on a bit of a roll.”
Now that CRL Newcastle get back on the road with their away fixture against Cabramatta at New Era Stadium this Saturday, Howard believes the four victories at home are “a good platform from which to move forward” with the rest of 2019.
“We’re really happy we ticked off those home games, it was a goal of ours to make that and to get them all as points on the board is really good,” Howard said. “Everything has come together in the last few games and is clicking, we’ve had a few little combos that were clicking and it all came together for some big wins.”
Leading hooker Kylie Hilder got Newcastle off the mark on Saturday afternoon against the Saints, after a rampaging run from Holli Wheeler dragged in three defenders, and opened the space for the side’s rake to clear past two over the line.
Chantelle Graham and Bobbi Law struck next on either flank before and after half-time, giving Newcastle a 16-nil lead after Howard slotted two of the possible three conversions. Then the team’s in-form halfback added her own four-pointer – the third in as many weeks – as she slipped between two defenders to score just wide of the sticks.
Talya Predborn and Simone Smith added to the blow-out win in the end, while the Saints made sure they weren’t to end the match scoreless as Emily Hupton scored their lone try of the afternoon in the 48th minute.
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The victory moves Newcastle into third with their 4-2 record, level with the Sharks but with superior point difference. The CRL outfit sits two wins away from the undefeated Mounties and Bears, the only teams to deliver Stone’s side defeats this year.
Newcastle’s haflback believes the team’s success has come from a number of players that have been in red-hot form, including veteran leader Hilder.
“Kylie [Hilder] has been playing so well for us, she identifies different situations out of ruck so well and the girls are starting to run off her a lot more now,” Howard said. “Simone Smith is also so good as an attacking weapon and she brings that something extra as we go forward in sets. She’s got a lot of experience and ball-running ability.
“Our entire middle forwards group have stood up in defence, they’ve all had a great run. Sophie Buller is one of the younger girls in the side and she’s been playing lock and hasn’t taken a step backward. Bec Young has been doing so much as well, which is so good to see because she’s been playing forever and hasn’t dropped off at all.”
CRL Newcastle return to the field on Saturday against Cabramatta, when they kickoff at 1pm at New Era Stadium. It’s the first away fixture for the side since the squad lost a nailbitting 10-8 battle against the undefeated Bears at North Sydney Oval in the first week of April.
Two of the team’s stars have also been named in the Women’s Rugby League Team of the Week. Interchange impact player Tayla Predebon was named at in the number 10 jersey for the starting side. Young lock Buller made the team’s bench.
Watch all the highlights from Newcastle’s 34-6 win over the Saints online at nswrl.com.au.