TOWERING bombs, blistering line breaks, magic off-loads, dazzling footwork and tenacious tackling - all the skills were on show at the Group 10 Junior Rugby League cluster carnival.
(min cost $8)
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Played over the weekend at Bathurst's Saint Stainslaus' College, the carnival was designed to give juniors experience playing representative football after two years of COVID-19 cancellations.
While the emphasis was not on winning, each of the 56 games played were hotly contest.
Under 12 and under 13 tackle sides as well as under 12s, under 14s and under 16s league tag outfits from Group 10, Group 14, Dubbo, Lachlan and Windsor all showcased their skills.
The under 13s clash between Group 10 East and Lachlan was typical of what unfolded.
It took a try from Lachlan hooker Alby Denyer with just 90 seconds left on the clock for his side to pinch a 16-14 win.
It sealed an impressive comeback from Lachlan, with Group 10 East having dictated in the opening exchanges.
Led by strong charges from prop Leon Mokaraka and second rower Zach Leydecker, Group 10 East found itself with good field position when the clash was just minutes old.
The boys in blue made sure they capitalised, forcing a line drop out and scoring off the resulting set as Blake Fulthorpe burrowed his way over from dummy half.
Riley Carter added the extras to make it 6-0 after five minutes.
Group 10 East backed that up with another solid metre-earning set and good kick which Lachlan knocked on.
Camped on Lachlan's line, Group 10 East spread the ball wide to Jack Stoddard and the winger dived over uncrossed to make it 10-0.
It was an excellent start, but Lachlan then clicked into gear.
Off its next set - led by hard charging prop Levi Johnson - Lachlan advanced deep into Group 10 East territory.
Rydah Hancock then muscled his way over and with Charlie Taunton's conversion, it was 10-6.
Lachlan continued to come at Group 10 East, but the host's online defence held until the break.
On the back of Taunton's excellent kicking game - the five-eighth putting up some impressive bombs - Lachlan threatened once more when play resumed in the second half.
But again Group 10 East's goal-line defence stood firm, Cooper Naylor reading play well at fullback.
Having absorbed that pressure Group 10 East then drew consecutive sets, Lachlan penalised for a high shot on halfback Carter.
It was a mistake Group 10 East further punished as a determined run saw Bill McCarney break several tackles and crash over. It gave his side a 14-6 buffer.
But as Lachlan had done in the first half after conceding, Group 10 East's try triggered a lift in intensity from the red and blacks.
Hancock showed some nice footwork to bag his second try and Nate Vincent added the extras to make it a two-point game with nine minutes left on the clock.
Though Carter and his halves partner Riley Hall did their best to create for Group 10 East and Mokaraka looked dangerous as he floated wide down the left edge, it was Lachlan that came up with the telling blow.
Taunton made the decision to kick early on tackle four for Lachlan with just over three minutes left and the tactic worked as Group 10 East knocked on.
From the ensuing play Denyer scored to hand his side a 16-14 win.
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