The Cessnock Goannas have kicked off their 2021 season with a bang, defeating last year's grand final opponents South Newcastle 34-16 at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
New signing Tyronne Roberts-Davis was named man-of-the-match, with AJ Davis, Gerome Burns and Wyatt Shaw also impressive in their debuts in the black-and-gold.
The 2020 premiers led 12-10 at half-time, before dominating the second stanza with four tries to one.
"We gave them seven-tackle sets six times in the first half," Goannas coach Todd Edwards said.
"We had to address that and we came out and went bang, bang, bang in the first 25 minutes of the second half.
"I thought our new guys went well. AJ [Davis] and Gerome [Burns] in the halves, Wyatt [Shaw] up front and Tyronne [Roberts-Davis] was always a threat on that right edge."
Gerome Burns opened Cessnock's account in the 18th minute, and Souths were on the scoreboard five minutes later through Lewis Hamilton.
Reed Hugo crossed for the Goannas in the 29th minute, and Ethan Fowles went over for the Lions three minutes before half time to close the gap to two.
The Goannas scored three unanswered tries through Cameron King, Josh Griffiths and Harry O'Brien, before Jarrod Flanagan went over for Souths' sole four-pointer of the second half. Harvey Neville rounded out the Goannas' blitz with three minutes remaining.
Cessnock now have a short turnaround before hosting Wests on Thursday, with the Rosellas unable to play at Harker Oval because it clashes with the rescheduled Newcastle cricket decider.
"It's not ideal, but it suits everyone with Easter and the grounds, so we've got to dust ourselves off quickly and go again," Edwards said.
Under-19s kick off at 5.30pm, reserve grade at 6.45pm and first grade at 8.15pm.
The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs' first-round clash with the Maitland Pickers was postponed due to the ground conditions. The Bulldogs will take on Central at Kurri Kurri Sportsground on Good Friday at 3pm.
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