A key area of any team's game and the ultimate deciding factor in the Comboyne Tigers dominance at South West Rocks Sports Ground for round one of the Hastings League.
A large crowd arrived at South West Rocks to cheer on the home side in the first match of their premiership defence.
The boisterous noise of hands clapping and voices yelling was heard as the Marlins ran on but the next ten minutes wasn't what they expected.
Comboyne Tigers prop Blake Debreceny started the fun, running over the top of the defence to break the line before passing to halfback Blake Wells in support to open the score.
A short-side play only two minutes later saw full-back James Schumann score.
This was followed by a break down the left from Jayson Corr who passed onto Jesse Smith as the scoreline read 16-0 to leave the home crowd in shock.
The Marlins weren't deterred though, a thirty metre kick-off to the left saw the ball dribble out and give them possession.
They made full use of the ball as Jesse Meehan ran the perfect line off a quality short ball to score.
Five minutes later Marlins were in attacking territory again as halfback Alfie Drew held the ball up and dummied inside before passing short to Corey Giacopelli who took defenders with him to barge over the line.
The Tigers hit back with another break, this time on the right hand side by Cameron Lindsay who offloaded to Ashley Kelly to make it 20-10.
Pounding hearts in the crowd received a rest as the point-scoring stopped for ten minutes before the Tigers turned defence into attack.
A dropped ball on the line from the Marlins saw the steeden shift left with a break on the left by Beau Dorrington who passed to Schumann in support and scored.
With ten minutes to go until half-time the Tigers were keen to inflict as much pain as possible.
The Corr and Smith left side combination came through again with Smith's support play securing him a four pointer.
Another instance of dropped ball on the line by the Marlins saw Kelly run the length just before the break with the score 38-10.
Co-coach Alfie Drew delivered a fair spray to his side at half-time as both sides went back and forth for the first eight minutes of the second-half.
An unfortunate mix up at the back by the Marlins gifted a try to Lindsay with the score now 44-10.
Jesse Smith then completed his hat-trick, running through the middle of the defence to score under the posts.
A melee was sparked in the middle of the field as Smith ran ahead.
The aggression seemed to kick the Marlins into gear as centre Peter Bula capitalised on a short-side play to score.
Drew's skills began to shine as the half-back terrorised the short-side, laying on another try to Corey Giacopelli.
Jesse Meehan then went over for a deserved double before Drew went to the short-side again minutes later with Giacopelli scoring a hat-trick.
However, the Tigers had the last laugh with Jesse Smith making it a double hat-trick to score right on full-time and deliver a 56-30 win for the men from Comboyne.
Marlins co-coach Alfie Drew put the loss down to his side's poor completion rate in the opening exchanges.
"We started off really slow, didn't complete a set in the first half which really hurts," he told the Argus.
"If you're not going to complete you'll have points scored against you, you just can't defend that many sets in a row.
"In the second half we picked it up really well, the boys started to play as a team by completing our sets and then our defence picked up so it's a tough one for our first game but we've got a lot to learn from it."
With the Marlins winning the second half 20-18, Drew saw some positives.
"We take a lot of confidence from the second-half, when we played direct footy and stuck to our structure we know we can compete, first half we didn't do that, we got away from our structure and were running one out," he said.
"We need to start the game off positive and found it difficult to come back from how we started."
The Marlins were missing key players due to unavailability but will see them return next week.
"We had both our play-makers out, Neville Donovan and Malcolm Webster, they're two big losses, they give us our direction and that's where we lacked today," Drew explained.
"They'll be back next week and hopefully we'll have a positive outcome."
Comboyne Tigers 56 (Jesse Smith 4, Ashley Kelly 2, James Schumann 2, Blake Wells, Cameron Lindsay tries; Ashley Kelly, Blake Wells goals) defeated South West Rocks Marlins 30 (Corey Giacopelli 3, Jesse Meehan 2, Peter Bula tries; Jamahl Toby goals).
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