Wagga Vipers sounded a day one warning to visiting rivals with some powerful performances on the opening day of this weekend's touch football extravaganza, led by their most senior teams as the under 18 boys and girls powered through without loss.
In the glow of Wagga's dawn, under a setting full moon, touch officials switched the lights on early on Friday morning so they could put the finishing touches on preparations for the Junior State Cup Southern Conference.
It wasn't long before players were lighting up the venue themselves.
The Vipers Under 12 boys set the tone for the home association early, powering to a 10-0 win over Canberra Magic in their 8am opener, then backed it up with a 5-0 win against Yass and a 5-3 victory against Parramatta.
"I was over the moon because Wagga has a history of starting a bit slow but the boys kicked off really well and got stronger as the day went on," coach Darrin Walsh said.
"Everyone stood up,across the field... and our tries were scored all over the park which shows we moved the ball around well."
The third win, against a strong Sydney association, gave the coach confidence but they face a massive game against the other unbeaten team in Pool A on Saturday.
"When we play our best, we're a top four team, at least. Our big game (on Saturday) will be against Penrith."
The fixtures can read like an NRL round at times, and the U12s know danger also resides in Pool B, topped by Cronulla and Wests.
If they started the Vipers' day with a perfect record, the U18 girls ensured it finished the same way, when they romped to a 10-0 win over Griffith late.
That completed three straight victories after a 9-1 win against a well-drilled Balmain and a thrilling victory, 5-4, against Parramatta when Leila Wadley crossed in the corner in the final moments.
"They're a red-hot side, I'm happy that we came away with the goods against them," assistant coach Stuart Heine said.
"Our defence won it for us, our pressure was the best I've seen from the girls and shows what we can do against the top sides. Hopefully we can bring that intensity when we get to finals."
Heine said 10 girls are in their last year at the tournament and "beside themselves" to go out in style.
Orange and Eastern Suburbs also finished the day unbeaten in the U18 girls and loom as tough challenges.
The U18 boys, coached by Darren Reynoldson and Alex McKenzie, didn't drop a game. But they opened with a 4-all draw against Easts before putting on 18 tries on University of NSW Rabbitohs (9-4) and Orange (9-7) in their next two games.
"We had a slow start against Easts but then we clicked into gear. We had our chances to win and hopefully we get to play them again in finals and get one over them there," Reynoldson said.
Captain Joe Cole led their efforts along with fellow middles Cody Reynoldson and Ethan Semple. Penrith and Parramatta are
Leaders Shayla Watson and Holly Williams led the Vipers U16 girls who kicked off with two wins from two games. They went in a player down due to illness but beat Milton-Ulladulla 10-0 and Canberra Magic 7-2 and are expecting Saturday's game against Penrith to be vital.
Wagga's U10 girls had a brilliant, flying start.
Remarkably, they didn't concede a try in their three wins against Sydney opposition beating Hills Hornets 4-0, Easts 6-0 and Parramatta 15-0 to top their group with a stunning for and against record.
The Vipers U12 girls - with wins against Temora, Easts and Balmain - and U14 boys (who beat Deakin and UNSW) have also set themselves up nicely with a blemish-free opening day.
Wagga's U10 boys had mixed results, as did the U14 girls and U16 boys but all enjoyed at least one win.
For all 172 teams, Saturday is crunch time as the race for Sunday's finals heats up against classy opposition.
Wagga Touch Association president Marc Lawrence was pleased with the Vipers' efforts, and the first day of the carnival.
"We haven't heard any complaints, everyone is impressed with the facilities and the venue and the weather's been really good too which makes it a bit easier too," he said.
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