New England Rugby title is anyone's to claim

Many have claimed this year’s New England Rugby competition as anyone’s game and Saturday’s round 11 first grade fixtures proved that to certainly be the case. 

TRY TIME: Armidale Blues' Brendan Czinner races away for a five-pointer in Saturday's demolition of St Albert's College. Photo: Catherine Stephen.

TRY TIME: Armidale Blues' Brendan Czinner races away for a five-pointer in Saturday's demolition of St Albert's College. Photo: Catherine Stephen.

The Armidale Blues mauled premiers St Albert’s College 57-12 to cement their top-two spot on the table. 

From start to finish, the Blues dominated and co-coach Luke Stephen said it wasn’t quite the result they were expecting. 

“We expected to play well because of the commitment the guys are showing week-in, week-out and that's what we saw leading into the game,” he said. 

“Having a squad of guys training and ready to play just meant we were able to go out and execute with little rustiness.”

After giving up a 25-7 half-time lead to lose 31-28 in their previous outing against Robb College, the Blues aimed to fire for the full 80 minutes against Albies. 

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“We were just happy with the way that our guys were able to go out and execute from the first whistle to the final whistle,” Stephen said. 

“We set ourselves a goal to play the best football we could for 80 minutes, and we scored in the 80th minute.

“That to me is a sign that the guys carried the message and played to the game plan for the 80. 

“At half-time when we were up, we spoke about not creating any opportunities for Albies to get back into the game.

“We were able to make a pretty telling tackle and Brendan Czinner picked up a loose ball and ran away to score not long after half-time which really led to us going on with the job.”

Across town at Bellevue Oval, the fifth-placed Barbarians managed to topple first-placed Robb College. 

While the win may have come as a surprise to some, it didn’t to coaches Greg Wynn and Damien Biddle. 

“We certainly felt we hadn't played to our potential up until that point,” Wynn said. 

“We were confident we had the ability to do it but it was nice to put it on the park. 

“We have just been working on a lot of things and it has finally clicked for us and for a lot of the players it was a bit of a realisation they had the potential as well.”

Wynn said their aim was to go out and kick into gear from the get-go. 

“We talked about it a lot, just how we thought we hadn't been preparing well enough and taking it out on to the field, we hadn't been starting well and then we had been chasing scores in a lot of games,” he said. 

“We also made a lot of emphasis on winning the contest and we felt like we did that in attack and defence, that got us on the front foot and allowed our backs to see some cleaner ball.”