IT will be just like the old days at Moree next Saturday after Narrabri ended Pirates’ premiership reign at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday.
The Blue Boars outplayed the four-times defending champions and triumphed 31-11 to win through to their first grand final since 2009, and set up a showdown with their old foes – the Bulls – for the title.
The two have had many a battle over the years and not that long ago played each other in four straight deciders.
There wasn’t anything overly flashy about what the Blue Boars did on Saturday, it was just a well-executed finals performance.
They knew what they had to do and went out and did it.
“I think we just ground them down like Moree did,” Blue Boars coach Tom Cullen said.
He pointed to one of the big factors in the win as staying composed.
“In previous games like that we’d seem to make one mistake and put our head down,” he said.
“Today we stayed controlled and composed.”
His co-coach Hunter Harley had spoken before the game about needing to start well.
They did that, with two Michael Cain penalties putting them up 6-nil after 13 minutes.
Pirates replied at the mid-point of the half through winger Sam Bowden.
Jake Douglas set the try up, spinning out of the tackle of Brenton Cochrane and Matt McDonnell and offloading to Bowden, who did the rest.
Rheagan Hall couldn’t add the extras but kicked a penalty a few minutes later to put Pirates ahead 8-6.
Things quickly swung back in the Blue Boars’ favour though, with Pirates prop Ben Goodman binned for pulling down the maul and, not long after, number eight Todd Farrer crashing over.
Hall got Pirates back on level terms with six to go but Cain landed another penalty to give the Blue Boars a 14-11 lead at the break.
Pirates had the chance to level early in the second half but opted for a quick tap instead of the points.
The gamble didn’t pay off, with the Blue Boars snuffing them out and then almost scoring twice – winger Henri Knight was dragged down just metres from the line and Matt McDonnell likewise – before Farrer crossed for his second.
It was almost identical to his first, with Farrer picking it up from the back of a scrum and finding a bit of space in the Pirates defence, and pushed the Blue Boars’ advantage out to 10.
Then came what many regard as the turning point, with Cochrane plucking an intercept and racing away about 30m to score.
That made the difference 17 with a quarter to go and meant Pirates had to score three times. Certainly not beyond them but, with the way the Blue Boars were playing, a difficult ask.
The Blue Boars had a late scare with captain and half-back Matt Schwager binned for a high tackle but the numbers were evened up a couple of minutes later with Pirates losing one of their most devastating runners in Conrad Starr to the bin.
That was virtually the game there.
If it wasn’t, then Cain’s fourth penalty to make it a 20-point game with 13-and-a-half to go was.
Cochrane is renowned for pulling off a freakish play and his intercept really turned the screws.
“That really broke them,” Cullen said.
Up until then they were right in it.
“I thought for 60 minutes of the game it was a real contest,” he said.
“Once we got a commanding lead the intensity dropped a bit.”
He said 1-15 they all stepped up, and there were strong performers across the park but it was hard to go past two-try hero Farrer.