Country Championships: North Coast defeat CRL Newcastle 44-16

PORT City Breakers fullback and Macleay resident Owen Blair was a standout as North Coast continued their under-23 Country Championship charge at Maitland on Saturday.

Blair crossed for a hat-trick and had a hand in a couple of others as North Coast belted CRL Newcastle 44-16.

Coach Dean Hurrell said the visitors set up the comfortable win in an impressive opening 40 minutes where they went to the sheds up 28-6.

He said Blair was one of the best players on the field although he was ably supported by captain Shannon Ellem and Port Sharks utility Mitch Wilbow.

“It wasn’t so much the tries that Owey scored, but that he was pushing up in attack,” Hurrell said.

“We know what he can do in attack because he does it all the time, but he had a try assist or two to his name as well.”

The performance backed up Hurrell’s comments last week where he felt his side could progress deep into the competition.

The coach already felt his side would have one or two picked in the under-23 Country side at the completion of the competition.

An appearance in the final could see that increase to five or six.

“It’s a fair incentive that the further we get into the competition the more we could have in that Country side,” he said.

The coach admitted it was encouraging his side had progressed through the competition on the “right” side of the draw.

“We’re probably on the better side of the draw because we avoid Illawarra and Monaro who are traditionally the strongest sides,” he said.

Northern Rivers now stand in North Coast’s way of a Country Championship final appearance against either Illawarra or Monaro.

North Coast and Northern Rivers will clash at Sawtell on Saturday at 12.10pm.

Hurrell conceded the clash with Northern Rivers would be a similar contest to the one they faced against Central Coast.

“When we played the Central Coast I thought we could win, but didn’t expect to,” he said.

“This week it will be harder and they’ll probably be at a similar level to Central Coast. There won’t be much in it.

“The more we play the better we’re getting because we have that valuable time together.

“It’s a happy side.”