AN IMPROVED defensive effort from the host team in some tough rugby conditions led to a 0-0 draw for Wauchope Thunder and Port Pirates in their historic first match-up on Saturday.
Thunder kept the Pirates out well at Andrews Park in a performance which drew praise from the opposition on day which also involved Central North side Barraba.
Handling errors became an issue as the ball turned into a cake of soap, but Thunder coach Marc Minor was proud of his team.
He was especially pleased with the defence.
"Much better than last week," Minor said of his team.
"The defence was great. They were up for it.
Matt Attard had an outstanding debut for Thunder. Minor said he didn't shy away from the hard stuff.
"He had a good, hard dig running the ball," Minor said of Attard.
Attard came away with a head knock, and he wasn't the only one on the injured list.
"We have a couple of niggles," Minor said.
Thunder went down 22-0 to Barraba in the second match for the hosts as fatigue set in and the rain tumbled down.
Pirates lost their first match 7-5 to Barraba, after some dispute involving a conversion attempt.
One linesman put the flag up while the other waved the kick away.
Barraba won the final 30-minute match of the day, 5-0 over Pirates.
Pirates coach Nigel Hurlston said teams were guilty of trying to play and expansive game rather than going with the "up the jumper" style which conditions demanded.
"It was shocking," Hurlston said.
"No team adapted. It wasn't just us.
"All three teams struggled with the balls."
Hurlston said Thunder was a good test for his team after an easy trial win over Muswellbrook the previous weekend.
"Sometimes you need a game like that to make you realise where you really are," he said.
He estimated the Pirates were about a fortnight behind where he wanted them to be in terms of season preparation.
The Pirates will face Hastings Valley Vikings in the first round of the season.
"So there's no warm-up to the season," he said.
"But the comp's not going to be won or lost in the first one or two rounds of the season."
Barraba struggled through its first day of wet rugby in a long time.
Coach Nick Bomford said his team hadn't played in the rain for about three years.
Bomford was full of praise for the Thunder despite beating the host team 22-0 in the 30-minute trial match.
"They were pretty competitive for their second outing," he said.
"They had great numbers. They will go a long way in the competition."