IT'S called one of the toughest games of the Mackay Rugby Union season but in the end the Whitsunday Raiders won the battle against Kuttabul Camelboks 17-12 on Saturday.
In the first rugby match at Whitsunday Sportspark this year, the Raiders made the most of their home field advantage as they dominated the game despite a spirited Kuttabul outfit.
Heading into half-time up 10-5, the Raiders crossed again early in the second half through Nathan Britten to take a 17-5 lead and they never looked back.
Coach Kon Flaherty was happy with his side's performance, which takes them to two wins from two this season.
"Normally it's a pretty fierce rivalry. I think it was really well spirited. It was just a good game," he said.
"The guys went well. Our fitness was tested in the second half."
The Raiders took the early advantage on Saturday before Kuttabul came back strong in the second half to be within striking distance as the game wore on. But the Raiders defence didn't let up despite continuous attacking raids.
"They came back dangerous in the second half," Flaherty said.
"They were running from deep with a few pressing runs and we did well to cover defence.
"It was a pretty nervous time as they kept bouncing back on the counter attack."
It was a special occasion for Raiders young gun Ben Cornish as he made his senior debut which continued a tradition at the club.
"Ben's dad played for the Raiders for a fair while," Flaherty said.
"He's part of a dominant age group that is coming through the ranks and he played really well."
Naming captain Shannon Wolland and Nathan Britten as stand-out players, Flaherty said it was good to get the win at home.
"It was really good to see the crowd turn out and see the Sportspark up and ready (following Cyclone Debbie). It's a testament to them to have the field up and running again," he said.
The Raiders will look to start the season with a hat-trick of wins when they take on Brothers in Mackay this weekend.
"We've got a few new players and people still getting used to our systems. We'll be working on our awareness and fitness and building that base," Flaherty said.
"It's always about building those combos and this week we'll be focusing on building those bases."
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