IT'S been a tough start already for Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League officials in 2019.
And, that was before the season kicked off at the weekend with the Muswellbrook Rams and Greta Branxton Colts withdrawing from the first grade premiership.
With the main competition now reduced to four teams, much to the disappointment of the other clubs, defending titleholders Scone Thoroughbreds took to the field against the Aberdeen Tigers, prevailing 28-8 away from home, while the Singleton Greyhounds upstaged the new-look Denman Devils 26-16 at Pirtek Park.
There was nothing between the teams for the majority of the first half in the grand final replay at McKinnon Field on Saturday.
JJ Apthorpe eventually broke the deadlock in the 37th minute and, while Jake Watts missed the shot at goal, Scone led 4-0 at the break.
Soon after the interval, Tim Smith leapt high for a Watts bomb to get the scoreboard ticking over in the second period. Watts converted from the sideline for a 10-0 advantage.
Haydon Topliss was next to cross the tryline, thanks to a nice inside pass from Tom Hagan. Watts added the extras for a 16-0 margin.
Aberdeen then capitalised on numerous sets on the Scone line to make it 16-4.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Tigers' centre Hamish Wolfgang swooped on a long intercept pass and sprinted to the tryline.
Although the conversion attempt was waved away, Aberdeen was still in the game at 16-8.
But, a Tigers' error gave Scone possession in a handy position.
Joel Harrison subsequently caught the opposition napping when he broke from dummy half and covered the 30 metres, scoring adjacent to the posts.
Smith converted for a 22-8 scoreline.
Just before full-time, Gary McKeon scooted off and placed a lovely kick behind the defence for Smith to snare his second.
He then piloted the ball through the uprights to seal the 28-8 triumph.
Meanwhile, the Greyhounds made it four from four on Sunday afternoon.
Thomas Johnson led the way in the senior side's 26-16 victory over the Devils.
In reserve grade, the Merriwa Magpies thumped the Murrurundi Mavericks 40-10, the Tigers proved too strong for the Rams 24-6, the Thoroughbreds over-ran the Colts 38-16 and the Greyhounds knocked over the Devils 30-22.
There was plenty to celebrate in the under-18s, with Aberdeen beating Muswellbrook 34-10 to register its first win since 2010.
And, from all reports, it won't be their last in 2019.
In the other junior fixture, Singleton put Denman to the sword 28-12.
The Magpies began the year in fine form, in league tag, accounting for the Mavettes 12-4, while the Ramettes overcame the Tigers 24-4 and the Greyhounds thrashed the Devils 50-8.
2019 Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League
Round one results:
First grade - Scone d Aberdeen 28-8, Singleton d Denman 26-16
Reserve grade - Merriwa d Murrurundi 40-10, Aberdeen d Muswellbrook 24-6, Scone d Greta Branxton 38-16, Singleton d Denman 30-22
Under-18s - Aberdeen d Muswellbrook 34-10, Singleton d Denman 28-12
League tag - Merriwa d Murrurundi 12-4, Muswellbrook d Aberdeen 24-4, Singleton d Denman 50-8