Round 9 Review - Cougars wary as Souths, Pirates bag statement wins

Wed, Jan 18, 2023, 4:07 AM
NT Rugby
by NT Rugby
Uni Pirates playmaker Robbie Butcher was key in a 31-0 win over Dragons
Uni Pirates playmaker Robbie Butcher was key in a 31-0 win over Dragons

Despite sitting three wins clear atop the XXXX Darwin A-Grade competition, Casuarina head coach Luigi Andreoli won’t be taking any chances after an extended summer break.

The Cougars were sidelined with a bye as rival clubs returned for Round 9 and Andreoli wants his charges firing for this weekend’s table topping clash with Souths Darwin Rabbitohs.

“It’s hard to say with having the extra week off – we’re taking positives that the guys are rested and had a bit more time over Christmas but at the same time it’s not so great for momentum,” Andreoli said.

“One thing I’ve said and a lot of older players are saying is you don’t win prems in the first half of the season.

“We’ve got to maintain that pressure and go from there.”

The Cougars have this season been spearheaded by the likes of Samuela Kanongataa and Tevita Faoukola, with Andreoli praising their impact both as individual players and on their teammates.

Round 9 A-Grade Results

Palmerston 0 def by South Darwin 62

Uni Pirates 31 def Darwin Dragons 0

Casuarina BYE

“These boys are lifting the standards and now other guys are punching above their weight as well,” he said.

“But we’re really excited just to get back into it - it was very close last time we played (Souths Darwin) … and they’ve been dominating us for the past four or five years so keen to get back out there and put one back on them, especially with the President’s Cup up for grabs”.

Souths coach Jack Forest won’t let the Cougars have it all their way – he’s eager to flip the script on a five-point loss back in November and has the side humming after last weekend’s 62-0 win over Palmerston.

“Prior to the break, our squad was a little underdone but Saturday was the strongest side we’d put together and the guys up the middle definitely laid a platform,” Forrest said.

“There was a real contest in the forwards but our backs opened them up in the second half and (winger Kanae) Gimini did well for his hat-trick.

“Definitely excited for the week ahead – we won’t be counting any chickens (against Casuarina) but we’ll put our best foot forward.”

Round 10 A-Grade Fixtures

Uni Pirates v Palmerston

Casuarina v South Darwin

Darwin Dragons BYE

Souths weren’t the only side to make a statement with Uni Pirates keeping a clean sheet against Darwin Dragons at Rugby Park.

Centre Brendan Russell was a standout as the Pirates endured a fiery first half from the Dragons before scoring three second-half tries to emerge 31-0 victors.

“Our defence was great, especially out wide, and our tackle contest, red zone turnovers and communication were really good too,” Uni-Pirates playmaker Robbie Butcher said.

“Brendan was amazing in the centres and we were able to relieve pressure with our defence early on but it was frustrating not to capitalise on a few more opportunities.

“We’re keen to go again with Palmerston this week – had a few players out the last time we met but that’s no excuse.

"For us there’s no better opportunity than to put one back on them - we're coming off a win and playing at home and they’re coming off a big loss to Souths.”

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