THE Tweed Coast Raiders are the inaugural winners of the Les Burger Memorial Shield after defeating Murwillumbah 30-14 in a passionate affair at Cabarita yesterday.
Playing on a field named in honour of Burger, a stalwart of rugby league on the Tweed, Raiders winger Tyrone Smith produced a four-try haul that propelled the Raiders to an impressive victory.
Murwillumbah opened the scoring in the fifth minute with winger Craig Lilley crossing for a try but the Raiders were quick to claw their way back into the contest.
Smith launched his one-man scoring blitz, crossing the try line four times to set up a 22-4 at the break.
With a large crowd on hand for the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) showdown, both teams were prepared to throw the ball around and that produced some free-flowing passages of play.
But it was the home side that claimed the prize with Raiders captain-coach Nathan Jordan presented with the shield at the end of the match by members of the Burger family.
“It's good to have the shield to play for, it adds a bit of spice to the games between our two clubs,” Jordan said.
The Les Burger Shield will go on the line each time the Raiders and Mustangs meet and league officials hope their rivalry will develop into one that matches the passion displayed when Murwillumbah was home to three clubs and they battled for the “town crown”.
Meanwhile, Jordan is confident the Raiders are finding form at the right time.
“This is our fourth win in a row and we are starting to develop the type of game I think we need to go forward in this competition,” he said.
“Our players are showing plenty of spirit, though I think we may have eased off during the second half and let them come back into the game.
“Still we got the points and are building some momentum which we need because we have two long road trips coming up in Lower Clarence and then Grafton.”
After a slow start to the season, the Raiders have emerged as the leading Tweed team in the NRRRL but Jordan knows that with Lower Clarence followed by the Grafton Ghosts in Grafton, his team could easily slip down the ladder.
“Fortunately we have some players coming back to the side and we are forming some good combinations,” he said.
Fullback Dane Heron and second-rower Corey Marr were among the Raiders' best while hooker Reece Sandy also impressed.
Hooker Simon Booth, halfback Ben White and backrowers Lewis Lilley and Dean Corringan were best for the Mustangs but coach Brad Purtell was left to rue the bounce of the ball.
“In the first half the luck wasn't with us and we got some bad bounces which led to tries,” he said.
“I know we have the team that can win matches and we showed that towards the end of the game but it's just how we start a match which is something which we have to look at.
“In the second half we had more ball control and I suppose it's small consolation that we scored more points than them.”
Purtell, who has been sidelined with injury, is hoping to return to the playing field next week when the Mustangs host the Ghosts.
In the lower grades, the Tweed Coast Raiders made it a clean sweep with the reserve grade posting a 38-22 victory over the visitors and the under-18 chalking up a 26-16 win.