Rawaqa red card dims Griffith's fire in Wagga

BIFF IS BACK: Griffith's Paul Vea comes out swinging against the Wagga Waratahs on Saturday. Picture: The Daily Advertiser

BIFF IS BACK: Griffith's Paul Vea comes out swinging against the Wagga Waratahs on Saturday. Picture: The Daily Advertiser

Rugby union

GRIFFITH'S star recruit Dan Rawaqa was controversially sent off on Saturday as the Blacks were dealt their first defeat of the Southern Inland season by the Wagga Waratahs.

Rawaqa was shown a red card inside the first five minutes for a malicious tackle on a Waratahs player, leaving the Blacks a man short for the remainder of their clash at the Conolly Rugby Complex in Wagga.

The 'Tahs relished the open space, running away with a 50-12 blowout victory to keep them atop the SIRU first-grade table for another week.

But Griffith coach Seru Rogo said Rawaqa's red card was "unfair" and put the Blacks at a distinct disadvantage for the entire match.

"We were expecting a yellow, just a warning," Rogo said. 

"They played well after that and won the game, but to me, it wasn't a fair win - they were one man up.

"Dan is our number-one gamebreaker and the boys were really down after he got sent off.

"We knew straight away, as soon as Dan got sent off ... there was nothing we could do."

Rogo said Rawaqa, a former Fiji international and star of the Shute Shield, was distraught after the match and felt like he had cost Griffith a chance of victory.

"He doesn't feel good about what happened," he said.

"But that's history for us now, we're looking forward to playing them again - and hopefully with the full 15 men for the 80 minutes."

To describe Saturday's match as a heated affair would be putting it mildly.

There were punches thrown in the opening stages as the Waratahs did what Rogo thought they would do all week - got under Griffith's skin.

"All through the week we talked about how they're going to come out and niggle us and try to unsettle us," Rogo said. 

"That's what they did from the first whistle and it worked.

"But in a way, it was good to have a loss - the boys felt how bad it is."

Despite all the disappointment, Rogo said he was pleased to see Griffith score two good tries through Vaea Mateo and Max Ravouvou.

"It was the kind of play we know we are good at and makes the Griffith Blacks who we are," Rogo said. 

"It was good to see that the boys still played well, but with lots of space and one man down, they were running away with tries."

The Blacks must now regroup and refocus on this weekend's clash for the Ben Groat Cup with CSU Reddies at the Coro Club Oval.

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