Newcastle rugby: Maitland out to maintain the rage

SIDELINED: Maitland breakaway John Birrell will miss the preliminary final clash with Merewether due to a head knock. Picture: Stewart Hazell
SIDELINED: Maitland breakaway John Birrell will miss the preliminary final clash with Merewether due to a head knock. Picture: Stewart Hazell

MAITLAND co-coach Ryan McCormack has marvelled at some of the rugby the Blacks have produced this season.

But there have also been other passages that have left the former fly-half scratching his head.

To date, the good have out weighed the not-so-good. And McCormack warned the Blacks will need to rid the lapses from their game if they are to beat Merewether in the Newcastle and Hunter rugby union preliminary final at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

“We have been able to put patches of football together,” McCormack said. “We can put together a really good defensive section, then a really good attacking section. It is about bottling it all together. Merewether are a quality side. They hang on to the ball for long periods of time. We have to have the patience and the mental capacity to go with them. Grind it out when we are in that phase. Then when an opportunity comes, we grab it with both hands.”

Maitland jumped out to a 15-7 lead against Merewether and appeared to be control in the qualifying final a fortnight ago. But as they have done all season, the Greens hung tough, found a another gear and snatched a 21-29 win.

“People asked me afterwards: how did we lose?,” McCormack said. “We lost because there was still 60 minutes of football to play. We need everyone to aim up. It is about emptying the tank.”

Alastair Fraser comes into for John Birrell (concussion) in the only change to the Blacks’ side that edged Nelson Bay 23-15.

Nick Davidson moves to openside with Fraser to play at six.

“Ace has played a lot of first grade and knows exactly what is going on,” McCormack said. “He is different type of back-rower to Davo and Birras but is a great young player.”