The Cessnock Goannas kicked off their Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) title defence in dashing style on Saturday, accounting for a gallant South Newcastle Lions 34-16 at the Cessnock Sportsground.
Despite losing a number of stars from their premiership-winning outfit over the off-season, the Goannas produced the goods when needed, especially in the second half.
In the end, the home side ran in six tries to three after holding a narrow 12-10 lead at the break.
Talented centre, and former Gold Coast Titan, Tyronne Roberts-Davis took out the man of the match honours in a five-star performance.
“I thought we did well, considering we didn’t get a penalty,” Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said.
“We were untidy in patches and our end of sets were poor.
“Plus, don’t forget, Souths lost their playmaker (Ryan Glanville) early in the game.
“But, it’s something [for us] to build on.
“I’m happy to start the NSWRL Denton Cup with a win.”
The showdown began at a frenetic pace and it wasn’t until the 19th minute that the Goannas broke the deadlock.
Halfback Gerome Burns placed a neat grubber through and dived on it for a try. Halfback Adrian Davis landed the conversion for a 6-0 advantage.
Even with Glanville on the sideline, icing his shoulder, the Lions displayed plenty of fight.
Hooker Joe Morris stepped inside the defence and found second-rower Lewis Hamilton in support. Harry Croker added the extras for 6-all.
In the 30th minute, Cessnock sent the ball out wide and rampaging forward Reed Hugo sliced through to touchdown. Davis made no mistake with the goal, putting the team in front 12-6.
Souths hit back just before the interval when halfback Tobias Evans kicked ahead to see winger Ethan Fowles jolly on the spot. Croker failed to convert, leaving the scoreline 12-0 in the Goannas’ favour.
Two tries in the space of 10 minutes – one to replacement Cameron King and the other to centre Josh Griffiths – plus a couple of Davis conversions extended the hosts’ margin to 24-10.
Cessnock then laid on the four-pointer of the afternoon, with Harry O’Brien and winger Denzel Burns combining over 50m before the fullback crossed the line in scintillating fashion. Roberts-Davis, taking over the kicking duties, increased the lead to 30-10.
The Lions refused to surrender and were rewarded when centre Jarrod Flanagan dived over. Croker sent the ball between the uprights to reduce the gap to 30-16.
The Goannas iced the first round cake with a try to Harvey Neville, sealing the victory 34-16.
In the other fixture, the Wyong Roos pipped the Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 18-16 at Morry Breen Oval.
CESSNOCK GOANNAS 34 (Gerome Burns, Reed Hugo, Cameron King, Josh Griffiths, Harry O’Brien, Harvey Neville tries; Adrian Davis 4, Tyronne Roberts-Davis goals) defeated SOUTH NEWCASTLE LIONS 16 (Lewis Hamilton, Ethan Fowles, Jarrod Flanagan tries; Harry Croker 2 goals)