By MATT NICHOLLS
JAMIE Smith bagged a hat-trick as Armidale scored a runaway victory against Inverell in the Group 19 competition on Saturday.
In front of a good crowd at Rugby League Park, the Rams ran out the 80 minutes strongly to defeat the Hawks 40-26.
The win sets up a tantalising clash with the Moree Boomerangs this Saturday.
The reigning premiers will start as the hot favourites against the Rams, but might struggle to compete with Armidale’s imposing forward pack.
With two wins from three matches, the Rams are high on confidence.
On Saturday, Smith continued his stellar season with three tries against Inverell.
The English hooker did it at both ends, setting up attacking plays, as well as heading the tackle count.
Smith had plenty of support from Fred Waters (two tries), Cam Mundy and Mitch Cooper.
Captain-coach Clarrie Moran also produced his best game of the season at halfback and kicked six goals.
Armidale will have a handy inclusion to its first grade side on Saturday, with Shaun Cox set to slot straight into the side after making his club debut in the reserves.
Cox, who played most of his rugby league at Guyra, scored a try against the Hawks in the early match and was one of the side’s better players in the 48-26 win.
“We only signed him on Friday night,” Rams president Terry Carson said.
“He’ll be a very handy player for us.”
Cox, who is the brother of former Armidale coach Justin Cox, could be the missing link in the Rams’ armoury.
He is likely to play in the centres, giving the Rams two of the most potent centres in Group 19, with Mitch Cooper regarded as one of the best in the region.