SPARKS flew on and off the field when the Central Highlands representative rugby league outfit clashed with Central West in Tieri at the weekend.
The game had it all… rain, wind, thunder and lightening but the difficult weather conditions did little to dampen the efforts of the Highlands players finishing comfortable 52-20 victors.
The win salvaged some pride lost by Highlands in the last-minute loss to the West last year in Blackall.
“Central West is a good side and they came down here to hold that title, so for us to claim it back is a great effort and credit to those boys who stood up,” CH coach Cy Bielenberg said.
Highlands centre and Emerald Tigers utility Ben Watego looked ever dangerous in attack and had a great hand in defence on the Highlands’ goal-line.
The second half injection of CH hooker and former Brisbane Bronco Barry Berrigan into the game added plenty of firepower with a number of darting runs from dummy-half picking up valuable metres downfield.
While the CH lead on the scoreboard never appeared in doubt, the West continued to pressure late in the game and rewarded with late consolation tries.
A lack of training and match fitness is often a common thread in early season hit-outs and Central West coach Cameron Holm said they felt the full effects of this in last weekend’s encounter.
“We were just a throw-together side, you can’t expect too much,” he said.
“Central Highlands is a pretty good team, we have got to give them credit - they were definitely a lot fitter than our boys.
“But it’s a good lead-up for the start of the year.
“We stuck it to them and hung in there.”
Dropped ball punctuated much of the early stages of the first half, as a consequence of some bone-jarring defence and simple handling errors, something which Highlands’ coach Bielenberg was well aware of.
“It took the boys a little bit to get into that game. Our completion in the first-half was only five out of 15 and that’s all I spoke to them in the dressing shed at half-time about,” he said.
“They were just trying to force it (the ball) a little too much but that’s understandable when you have new players who have never trained together.”
He said the encounter with the West has paved the way for a promising start for the Central Highlands side at the 47th Battalion Carnival in Bundaberg next month.
“The completion was better in the second half, up around the 70% … it’s still not where we want to be but it’s a new side and hopefully we can go one better in Bundaberg.”
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.