Minor premiers Moree Boomerangs confirmed their Group 19 premiership favouritism with a hard-fought but convincing 56-30 win over Glen Innes Magpies at Bert Jovanovic Oval, Moree on Saturday.
While the loss was a disappointment for Glen, injuries to Scott Blanch, Matt Crowhurst and Jacob Key were disastrous.
Apart from centre Crowhurst’s suspected broken jaw, Glen lost effervescent fullback Blanch (broken hand) very early while second-rower Key (thumb) did not finish the first half and co-captain Jeff Moate finished the game requiring 10 stitches to facial cuts.
“Our effort was good,” Magpies coach Dale Keegan said.
“But unfortunately our execution was poor.
“We will have to patch ourselves up and be better next week.”
Blanch played just 10 minutes before suffering a broken hand.
It is in plaster and he’s now out for the season.
Crowhurst was hit in a late and high tackle, concussed badly and will miss Sunday’s preliminary final with Gwydir as will Key.
Sunday’s game was hard-fought and evenly-contested in the first hour when Moree led 32-30 but the home side took advantage of a glut of possession from then on, played some sparkling football and ran out impressive winners.
The Magpies started the game well, with big prop Moate surging 40m from the kick-off.
Glen received successive early penalties and lock Brett Watts surged over wide out.
Jock Waters landed a handy conversion and Glen had a nice early lead.
The Boomies hit back hard but had a try disallowed before Jamie Sampson threw a great cutout pass to Jamie Smith for their first try.
The teams exchanged tries before the Boomies scored three times late in the half to take a 28-18 lead into the break.
Glen regained the lead early in the second half but paid a big price when Crowhurst was left concussed and bleeding after being hit after he gave the final pass for Jamie Watts’s try.
Members of the Magpies camp and supporters were left nonplussed when no action was taken against the tackler.
The conversion saw the Magpies lead 30-28 but their advantage was short-lived.
Moree took control of the match as it dominated possession and ran in five unanswered tries in the latter stages of the match.
The two halves followed a similar pattern.
Glen Innes outscored Moree in the early stages of both halves before Moree stormed home with late tries and finished the stronger.
Five-eighth Ricky Roberts and half Sampson had excellent games while centre Craig McKenzie and lock Luke Raveneau were strong throughout but the winners had a host of top performers.
For Glen, Moate was the go-to man while young second rower Jock Waters had an outstanding first half before Glen’s injury woes saw him moved to the centres for the second half.
This Sunday’s preliminary finals are a huge day for Glen Innes, with all four teams involved in the sudden-death struggle for grand final spots.