Missing players haunt hornets

THE loss of three key players proved too big a hurdle for the Cudgen Hornets as they were edged out by competition leaders Lower Clarence in an enthralling encounter at Kingscliff on Saturday.

With inspirational captain Steve Kirkham, fullback Shannon Murphy and centre Dan Forder missing, the Hornets were expected to struggle against the Magpies but the home side dug deep before going down 24-10 at Ned Byrne Field.

Cudgen coach Con Theodossiou was pleased with the commitment and effort shown by his players but was left to rue a couple of missed opportunities in the first half which could have altered the course of the match.

Instead, Lower Clarence held sway at the break after capitalising on Cudgen's errors.

“We bombed a couple of scoring opportunities which could have changed the nature of the game,” Theodossiou said.

“We were right the game in the first half in what was a very tight tussle.

“Unfortunately, we had to do a lot of defending and that took it out of us a bit. They made us pay for our mistakes.

“I was pretty proud of the effort our boys put in (but) you can't lose three good players and not pay a price.”

Lower Clarence opened the scoring, skipping out to a 10-0 lead before a converted try right on half-time set up a 16-0 scoreline at the break.

The Hornets lifted in the second stanza, outscoring the visitors 10-8 but it was too little, too late.

“We came out much better in the second half and showed good control to outscore them but you have to win both halves,” Theodossiou said.

Winger Aaron Coutes, lock forward Paul Slatyer and halfback Chris Moase were among the best for the Hornets who face a crunch match against Ballina next weekend.

“We now face a bit of backs-to-the-wall situation and really need to win our next two games if we are to have any hope of making the finals,” Theodossiou said.

In the lower grades, it was a case of heartbreak all round for Cudgen with the reserves going down 28-24 and the under 18s edged out 18-16.

In other round eight matches, Mullumbimby sounded a warning they will be a force to be reckoned with after thumping the Grafton Rhinos 52-4, premiers Byron Bay edged Marist Brothers 13-12, Northern United downed Casino 44-14, Ballina beat Kyogle 30-26 and Grafton Ghosts defeated Evans Head 38-18.

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