THE Griffith Blacks’ first goal of their three-step plan to making Southern Inland Rugby Union’s premier division has been ticked off after defeating the Leeton Phantoms 19-0 at Coro Club Oval on Saturday.
Blacks coach Clint Robertson last week set his players the unenviable task of winning their next three games or risk being dumped to the Romano’s Cup division for the rest of the season.
But Robertson said his squad rose to the occasion at the weekend, displaying the passion and dedication they need to make the top six.
“The boys played with a lot of passion,” Robertson said. “As expected it was a grudge match and there was plenty of niggling, pushing and poking which was good to see, and Ben Groat threw his first punch in his rugby career.
“Our backline was connected and has been fairly stable for a few weeks now ... all-in-all it was a good game.”
With both sides desperate for a win and a chance to claim bragging rights, the archrivals fought hard from the first whistle to grab control of the game.
But while unforced errors and a lack of discipline made the Blacks their own worst enemy, the Griffith backline continued to deny Leeton the chance to cross the line.
“Defensively we were really good,” Robertson said.
“A lack in discipline cost us a lot of metres and put us under pressure but we defended well and kept Leeton out.
“We forced them to make mistakes and turn the ball over.”
Kolo Lomu was the first to cross the line for the Blacks with a good try down the sideline and got Griffith out to a 12-0 lead at half-time with a pick and drive try.
The Blacks had found their stride going into the second half and were preparing to run riot over the Phantoms but their rhythm was interrupted when Dan McGreal went down with a possible neck injury.
“It was a very scary moment,” Robertson said.
“Dan could only move a few fingers and didn’t have any feeling in his legs. He had scans done and he’s been given the all-clear, which is really lucky.
“We ended up only playing about 10 minutes in the second half and we would have got more points but it was hard to get back into it.
“It would have been nice to have a full second half because the boys had started to settle down but they played well and it was a good game to watch.”
Dahl Browne was able to snatch up a loose ball and run 60-metres to get the Blacks their third try of the day to take Griffith to the victory, just shy of a valuable bonus point.