NHRU: Greens, Blacks, Bulls and Gropers win, two players sent off and drama aplenty in opening roundphotos, video

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HARD YARDS: Wanderers prop Blair Rush is brought to ground by Merewether backs Tom Smith (left) and Eli McCulloch during the Greens’ bruising 15-13 win at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday. Picture: Stewart HazellMEREWETHER co-coach Mick Gill was impressed with the toughness and tenacity of the Greens but warned they will have to play a lot smarter to challenge for a Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiership.
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The Greens opened the season with a grinding 15-13 triumph over fierce rivals Wanderers at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

Two Blues skipper Luke Simmons had a chance to snatch a win with a late penalty from 40 metres,butpushed his attempt to the right.

“We won that on the back of being tough and tenacious, our fitness and the little one per-centers,” Gill said. “But we nearly lost it by being dumb and doing stupid stuff we don’t want to do.Luke Simmons usually kicks those every day of the week. Again theeffort was great but in terms of rugby smarts there is a lot to improve on.”

In hot conditons, neither side played with much width and line breaks were rare.

“We gave gone back to basics and won’t move forward until we get them right,” Gill said. “If it takes half a season, that is what we will do.”

Merewether led 8-3 at half-time and extended the gapto 15-3 with a fortuitous try four minutes after the break.

Newcastle Rugby: Greens grind out win despite playing ‘dumb’ TweetFacebook Merewether v WanderersPictures: Stewart HazellEthan Fowles hit the post with a penalty attempt from in-front. The ball bounced twice before Wanderers winger George Ashworth cleaned up. But his clearing kick was charged down by Jason Milligan who chased the ball down in goal and grabbed it out of the hands of Nick Fay to touchdown.

The visitorsappeared in controlbut, through a combination of bone-jarring Wanderers defence and mistakes, lost their way.

Simmons landed a penalty and then Merewether lost Lachlan Miller to the sin bin for a deliberate knock down. Six minutes later fullback Tim Marsh swivelledoverafter Ashworth had collected his own chip ahead.

Wanderers had enough ball in the final 20 minutes to conjure a win but could not deliver a killer blow.

“We are a littleunderdone and were out on our feet at the end,” Wanderers coach Darren Young said. “For the last four years we have dragged the boys in for pre-season in late October and have been a bit stale at the back end. This year we started later.The consequence of that is understanding that we might be a little bit slow out of the blocks inthe hope that we are hitting our peak at the right time.”

Maitland played 45 minutes with 14 men and lost Mick Howell to an ankle injury but still stormed home to beat Southern Beaches 37-32 at Ernie Calland Oval.

Blacks breakaway Alistair Fraser was sent off for a lifting tackle late in the first half with the visitors ahead 20-10. Beaches scored three straight tries to open a 32-20 lead.

But the visitors, sparked by Carl Manu, finished over the top.

Singleton played 55 minutes a men down after Cody Fenwick was sent off for a swinging arm but still thrashed Lake Macquarie 61-17 at Walters Park. The win was the Bulls first since August 20, 2016.

At Bernie Curran Oval, Nelson Bay overpowered University 24-7.

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