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Newcastle Rebels send Dragons packing

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Pre-match, Newcastle Rebels coach Adam Bettridge predicted a “tough assignment”.

And, that’s exactly what the local representative outfit experienced when it won its second round NSWRL Men’s Country Championship fixture, 30-10, over the Illawarra South Coast Dragons at Collegians Sports Stadium at the weekend.

Although the Rebels impressed everyone seven days earlier in their 36-14 victory, at the expense of the Central Coast Roosters, the Newcastle mentor knew his charges needed to step up even further.

“They’re a great side,” Bettridge said of their rivals.

“You only had to see their previous game, where they hammered the Macarthur Wests Tigers 58-12.

“But, I couldn’t fault my boys in the heat [today].

“There wasn’t a bad player among them.

“I’m very happy with the effort.”

Newcastle’s forwards, led by barnstorming Maitland duo James Taylor and Jayden Butterfield, were superb against a much bigger pack while Cessnock hooker Luke Huth, Central Newcastle fullback Cameron Anderson and Maitland winger James Bradley caused Illawarra South Coast several headaches in attack.

The Rebels opened proceedings with a penalty to five-eighth Chad O’Donnell in the third minute, after the playmaker copped a high shot.

And, despite a number of chances, Newcastle was held at bay due to resolute Dragons defence.

The hosts then gained the advantage in the 30th minute when centre and ex-NRL player Steven Marsters split the Rebels out wide.

From the quick play-the-ball, fullback Justin Jones dived over. Even though Marsters failed to convert, Illawarra South Coast led 4-2, which remained the scoreline at half-time.

The Rebels struck back almost immediately after the break when a fortuitous grubber by halfback Dylan Phythian was cleaned up by forward Luke Higgins in the in-goal area. O’Donnell added the extras for an 8-4 margin.

Six minutes later, South Newcastle’s Ryan Glanville scooted out of dummy half to touch down. O’Donnell again made no mistake, extending the lead to 14-4.

However, in the blink of an eye, the Dragons responded.

After keeping the ball alive, Jones crossed for his second try of the afternoon. Marsters raised the flags to make it 14-10.

Then, against the run of play, Bradley swooped on a loose pass and raced away 80m untouched. O’Donnell gave his side a bit of breathing space at 20-10 with a successful conversion.

That broke Illawarra South Coast’s spirits.

In the 60th minute, centre Gary Anderson and Bradley combined to steer the No 1 Anderson over. The score remained 24-10 when O’Donnell missed the shot.

Another brilliant attacking move down the short side in the dying stages resulted in Bradley’s well-deserved double. O’Donnell put the icing on the 30-10 triumph.

The Dragons were gallant in defeat with Jones, Jarrod Boyle, Tarke Whitford, Levi Pascoe and Jalal Bazzaz earning high praise.

It’s understood Newcastle will next tackle the Western Rams in the semi-final.

  • NEWCASTLE REBELS 30 (James Bradley 2, Luke Higgins, Ryan Glanville, Cameron Anderson tries; Chad O’Donnell 5 goals) defeated ILLAWARRA SOUTH COAST 10 (Justin Jones 2 tries; Steven Marsters goal)

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