Round 11 Review - Dragons give unbeaten Cougars an almighty scare

Tue, Jan 31, 2023, 1:00 AM
NT Rugby
by NT Rugby
Talifolau Sitani on the attack for Casuarina Cougars against Darwin Dragons. Photo: Leithal Pictures
Talifolau Sitani on the attack for Casuarina Cougars against Darwin Dragons. Photo: Leithal Pictures

Darwin Dragons have rocked the XXXX Darwin A-Grade competition after giving undefeated Casuarina an almighty scare in their Round 11 clash on Saturday.

The last-placed Dragons came within a try this season’s biggest upset by playing for territory in torrid conditions but couldn’t quite go the distance, falling 20-14 to the Cougars at Rugby Park.

Winger Hayden Riggs (one try) and flyhalf Mickael Becat-Narbey (3 penalties) filled out the Dragons’ scoresheet while hooker Hosea Fotukava and fullback David Jacobson crossed the whitewash for Casuarina in a game that highlighted just how small the gap between first and fifth is this season.

“The boys gave it a really good crack and we stayed within our goal of seven points (and a bonus point),” Dragons backrower Hirini Murfitt said.

“We kicked for corners and pressured Casuarina into mistakes down in their half, I don’t think they were expecting us to be able to put that kind of pressure on.

“But that’s down to attitude – since Christmas we’ve been putting our heads down, getting involved more, and it's lead to us being more competitive across the park.

Round 11 Results

Casuarina 20 def Darwin Dragons 14

Uni Pirates 23 def South Darwin 7

Palmerston BYE

“And having players back from injury and holidays like Mickael and (centre) Todd McManus just adds a little professionalism and helps lift our backline to a higher standard.”

With just three games left of their regular season, the Dragons will need to win at least twice to knock Palmerston out of finals contention.

But Murfitt - who also serves as Darwin Dragons president - believes his club have already proven themselves a force, regardless of qualification.

“It’d be great if we can make that top four and I think it’d really scare those other teams having us in the finals, but as a club I think we’ve already found success this season.”

“Our women have been playing exceptionally well and I know they’ve got a bone to pick after losing the last grand final – they beat Casuarina on the weekend and they’re improving every week.

“Personally, I just want to see us putting in good performances and growing as a club.”

Round 12 Fixtures

South Darwin v Darwin Dragons

Casuarina v Palmerston

Uni Pirates BYE

In Saturday’s other XXXX Darwin A-Grade clash, Uni-Pirates got the better of Souths in a physical 23-7 affair.

“It was the first really wet game we’ve played all year and we were really pleased to keep them to just one try and convert our opportunities into points,” Pirates flyhalf Robbie Butcher said.

“With only four rounds to go, it’s just about trying to consolidate our top-four spot so we were pleased to get a win on Ladies Day in front of the girls.

“They had the bye so they were out on Saturday having and they’ve been training really well and getting good numbers since Christmas so there’s a good vibe growing in their team as well.”

Casuarina & Uni Pirates also bagged wins along with Katherine’s Rucking Roos in the NT Bitumen & Asphalt B-Grade competition while Darwin Dragons rolled the Cougars 29-5 in the women’s sevens match of the round.

Junior rugby also made its return with 19 games played under Friday night lights at Rugby Park with NT Rugby development officer Chris Bedford anticipating a further 24 games this coming Friday.