It may be the smallest zone in Country Rugby but New England put on a dominant display at the NSW County junior rugby union championships at the weekend with five earning selections in the Junior Cockatoos squad.
New England captain Ben Rowe along with Darcy Booth, Tana Heron, Liam Hunt and Patrick Baldock impressed in the host zone’s under 14’s third-place campaign and were named in the Cockatoos side at the conclusion of the carnival.
At Sport UNE’s Consett Davis fields, New England’s under 14’s started their Country Championships with a 36-nil win over Central Coast.
The little Lions were then outclassed by competition heavyweights Hunter 26-nil before beating Far North Coast 21-7.
The hosts took on eventual winners Illawarra in the semi-final on Sunday and were beaten 31-5.
They took on Central West in the play-off for third.
Central West scored in the first minute of play before the little Lions kicked into gear.
First-half tries to Ben Row, Ashton Randall-Dwyer and Tana Heron saw them take a 15-7 lead at the break.
Heron and half Darcy Booth crossed again in the second stanza to stretch their lead to 27-5.
Central West scored a consolation try on the final buzzer to bring the scoreline to 27-12 and hand New England third place in their division.
New England punched well above their weight with the likes of Illawarra experiencing 200 players turn up per age group for a spot in their zone team.
The Lions have 150 kids registered across all age divisions and had 22 turn up to try-outs for the under 14 side.
“We were 20 kilos a kid lighter than Illawarra on average so it was a hell of an effort to go up against them and go as well as we did,” carnival convener Simon Stuart said.
“We do very well for what we are.
“It is a small group, the kids we have, and they have been coming since they were 11 and getting flogged every year and this year we stood up.
“Besides losing to Hunter in a hard-fought match and Illawarra, we beat everybody else.”
Illawarra continued their dominant run in Country Rugby and took out all three divisions.