Bulls hold the aces in semi-final clash against Raiders


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Jack Murday (about to win lineout ball) makes a welcome return to the Raiders and will be a key player in tomorrow's semi-final against the Bulls. Image: Joanne Cowe.

The Reef Raiders’ biggest challenge against Barron Trinity Bulls in tomorrow’s elimination final in the FNQ rugby union A grade competition at Stan Williams Park is whether they can overcome the psychological advantage the Cairns team has over them.

In the opening match of the season, the Bulls won 22-19 and then followed this up with a 37-7 win later in the season. Both were away matches for the Raiders.

And Raiders coach Travis Gooch is more than aware of what lies ahead for his team.

“Besides the psychological advantage, add to that three-times defending champions and there is no denying that we have our work cut out tomorrow.

“However, in saying that, we have belief within our squad that we can put out a performance to take us one step closer to the title. Who doesn’t like an underdog story?” he said.

Gooch said it was important not to let the game run away from us in the early stages.

“They are a structured team, with many threats all over the park. We can’t afford to allow them to start well and have to play catch-up footy. 

“We need to play rugby at the right end of the field, hold possession and create pressure, something we have struggled at times to do throughout the season,” he said.

The Raiders will be strengthened with the return of Jack Murday, but will be missing two other key players.

“Jack Murday returns for us. In my eyes, the best lineout jumper in the comp and a work rate like no other.
“He also brings a lot of experience having been around the club for many years; experience which is vital in finals rugby. Unfortunately, both Francisco Panessi and Matt Mallard are unavailable this weekend,” said Gooch.

The Raiders coach said among the many highlights this season has seen rugby put back on the map in Port Douglas.

“At the start of the season I set out to create an environment that players bought into, enjoyed and wanted to keep coming back to. It has been a team effort from all involved from committee members to players, supporters and sponsors.

“This season was all about putting rugby back on the map in Port Douglas, a goal we have achieved. How satisfying has the season been comes down to these last three games, starting with knocking over the defending premiers’ tomorrow,” he said.

In the opposition ranks, flank Brachlan Harris, who is regarded as one of the most under-rated players in the competition, is expected to be a key player for the Bulls.

His incredible work rate and versatility will be a factor and his formidable presence in the Bulls attack will be to their advantage.

Minor premiers JCU Mariners will meet Southside Crusaders in the major semi-final at 2pm and the Bulls-Port Douglas minor semi-final clash is at 4pm.

The loser of the major semi-final will play the winner of the minor semi-final in the preliminary final; and the grand final will be contested between the winner of the major semi-final and the winner of the preliminary final at Barlow Park on 3 August.   

The Reef Raiders’ road to the minor semi-final:

➢ Lost to Barron Trinity Bulls 19-22 (away)
➢ Beat Mudcrabs 31-0 (home)
➢ Beat Penrhyn Sharks 32-7 (away)
➢ Lost to Southside 5-27 (away)
➢ Beat Brothers 17-12 (home)
➢ Lost to JCU 7-36 (away)
➢ Lost to Bulls 7-37 (away)
➢ Beat Mudcrabs 31-22 (away)
➢ Beat Penrhyn 37-12 (home)
➢ Lost to Southside 19-22 (home)
➢ Lost to Brothers 19-25 (away)
➢ Lost to JCU 3-36 (home)

Of the leading try scorers, Chase Hay, who scored a record five tries against Penrhyn, has crossed over on six occasions; followed by Matt Mallard (five) and Manuel Perreira (four).

Newsport will provide full coverage of the semi-final.

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