HAMILTON coach Scott Coleman has labelled Southern Beaches the ‘‘niggle kings’’ and warned the Hawks not to get sucked in by their needling tactics in the minor premiership showdown at Passmore Oval today.
Hamilton (60 points) and Southern Beaches (57 points) have been the stand-out teams of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union with daylight third.
They each have one loss.
The Hawks went down to Beaches 27-21 at Cahill Oval in week five.
Beaches’ hiccup was a 19-12 upset to Wanderers in week seven, the Two Blues opening game at No.2 Sportsground.
They play a similar brand of rugby, reliant on a dominant forward pack, and many believe today’s clash will be a prelude to the grand final on September 22.
Former whipping boys, Beaches have grown in confidence with every week.
They have a big, aggressive pack which has become adept at rattling the opposition, physically and psychologically.
In their first encounter, Hamilton played the final 50minutes with 14 men after prop William Soe was sent off for two yellow cards, both for fighting.
Beaches had similar success in the 25-15 win over Merewether at Townson Oval 11 days ago.
In a spiteful clash, the Greens had three players sent to the sin bin and Beaches had two. Significantly the visitors scored two tries with a man advantage.
‘‘They are definitely the niggle kings,’’ Coleman said.
‘‘Last game they baited William Soe successfully.
‘‘Everything is a contest for them. They don’t give you any easy ball. Even when we take the ball in, they don’t just sit off the ruck. They compete at every breakdown, every scrum.
‘‘If you do get into a verbal with them, they back themselves. They don’t mind talking it up as well.
‘‘We have spoken about that and are not going to let them get under our skin.’’
Beaches coach Tim Chidgey made no apology for their aggressive dog-at-a-bone tactics.
‘‘I want them to let the opposition know, no matter what the result is on the scoreboard, they have had a game of rugby,’’ he said.
‘‘Teams can do funny things under pressure.
‘‘Against Merewether we were in there pushing their buttons.
‘‘It is not just verbal, it is being physical at the breakdown, physical at the lineout ... always contesting whether it is a set piece, ruck, maul or at the tackle.’’
Coleman was at Townson Oval and was impressed by Beaches.
‘‘It was a strong performance; lots of intensity, lots of aggression and a fair bit of skill,’’ he said.
As they have done for most of the season, the Hawks will missing key men today.
Lineout general Nick Palmer has succumbed to a hamstring problem and joins NSW Country teammates Va Talaileva (knee) and Lewie Catt (groin) on the sideline.
Steve Sione, who was working in Sydney all week and missed training, comes back in as blindside breakaway.
‘‘We have had to deal with players being unavailable all year,’’ Coleman said.
‘‘The players have the mindset that we are at full strength.
‘‘The minor premiership is all good and well – you get the week off – but the main prize is the major premiership.
‘‘We are not going to risk players.’’