Macleay Valley Mustangs lose captain-coach to injury in 46-24 defeat against Port City Breakers

Second chance: The Mustangs will have another shot at reaching the Group Three Rugby League grand final when they host the Taree City Bulls on Sunday. Photo: Ivan Sajko.

Second chance: The Mustangs will have another shot at reaching the Group Three Rugby League grand final when they host the Taree City Bulls on Sunday. Photo: Ivan Sajko.

The Mustangs were hit with an extra blow in their 46-24 defeat at the hands of the Port City Breakers in Sunday’s grand final qualifier.

Captain-coach Dennis Ritchie broke his arm in the second minute of the contest and will miss the remainder of the finals series.

He courageously played on for eight minutes, believing it could have been a cork, but after he was unable to regain movement he was forced from the field.

It is a cruel blow for the Mustangs, who are already without halfback Anthony Cowan, who injured his ankle in the final regular season match.

“It is shattering, we have worked so hard and to have a couple of injuries at the wrong time of the season is just disappointing,” Ritchie said.

“It hurts the team but we have people who can fill in and step up.”

The Mustangs were forced to play the final 65-minutes of the match with just two substitutes after Adam McMurray tore his hamstring.

The lack of interchanges available forced forwards Vilianme Tobesowa, Brayden Davis and Lionel Lockwood to play the entire second half.

The tired players around the ruck were exposed by the Breakers late in the second period as they ran away with the contest.

Macleay Valley’s discipline let them down early as repeat infringements resulted in Tobesowa spending 10-minutes in the sin bin and the Breakers reaching an 18-0 lead after 20-minutes.

“We gave away a couple of penalties and we started slowly,” Ritchie said.

“They were getting quick play-the-balls and they got a roll on down the middle of the field.”

However, the Mustangs regrouped and Stephan Blair, Willy Lockwood Junior and Jacob Smith crossed in the final 11-minutes before the break to level the scores at 18.

The Breakers crossed for two early tries to start the second half but the Mustangs narrowed their lead to 28-24 after Brayden Davis scored in the corner.

The scores remained the same until the final 15-minutes of the match, when the Breakers fresh legs proved the difference as they ran in three more tries.

The Mustangs will face the Taree City Bulls at home on Saturday for the right at a rematch with the Breakers in the grand final at Regional Stadium on August 27.

Macleay Valley held on for two narrow victories against the Bulls in the regular season, defeating them 30-20 on the road before 30-26 later in the season at home.

“I have full confidence in the side of getting the win but the Bulls are always a tough side to beat,” Ritchie said.

The match kicks off at 3pm on Saturday at Verge St Oval.

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