NARRABRI’S delight at ending Pirates’ reign and winning through to its first Central North grand final since 2009 might have been soured at Wee Waa on Sunday.
The Blue Boars are facing the prospect of again being without star five-eighth Brenton Cochrane.
Cochrane was sent-off in the final minute of the Panthers’ preliminary final loss to North Tamworth and is looking at a possible one-match suspension after being charged with a high tackle.
As per the ARU code of conduct, he wouldn’t be able to play union while he is suspended, as was the case earlier in the season.
It would be a big blow after the Blue Boars produced a brilliant effort to beat the defending champions 31-11 on Saturday.
They took the lead early, led 14-11 at half-time and played the territory game well in the second half.
“We kicked a lot better than them,” Blue Boars co-coach Tom Cullen said.
The back three – Dave Boyle, Henri Knight and Michael Cain – and outside centre Lachie Cameron have really learned how to control a game well, he said.
“We knew they were dangerous out wide,” Cullen said.
“We knew we had to try to keep it down their end.”
There wasn’t a lot he could fault about the performance.
“Our first half was pretty good,” he said.
They gave away a few penalties early but Cullen put that down to a bit of finals jitters and over-eagerness, with a lot of them for being offside, and that did improve.
The only other thing was their attack.
“In attack we were a bit lost at times, were zig zagging across,” he said.
He said they spoke about needing to go forward before they could go wide.
They did that well in the second half, with a couple of big runs almost leading to tries.
“When we get a roll-on we’re right,” Cullen said.
“We’ve got ball runners like Tricky (Matt Trindall) and Henry (Curtin) who can get us on the front foot.”
Skipper Matt Schwager being binned was a bit of a hiccup.
“It took a lot of momentum out of the attack,” Cullen said.
But they were fortunate to have Knight to slip in there.
“One of the things that won it for us was we were able to adapt to situations,” Cullen said.
It was third time lucky for the Blue Boars after their U18s and seconds earlier went down.
Seconds were well-beaten by Gunnedah 34-8.
It wasn’t one of their better performances for the year.
“The aggression wasn’t there like it was last week (against Moree),” co-coach Matt Radford said.
They had to play a lot in their own half, especially in the first half, and Radford said Gunnedah’s try on half-time was a big blow.
“Everyone seemed to have their head down after that,” Radford said.
That said, they did get more parity of possession and territory in the second half but they couldn’t put the points on the board, with little mistakes just cruelling them.
“Once we got a bit of rhythm, we’d drop the ball,” Radford said.
Brock Johnstone and Chase Magner both tried hard. Pat Brummell and Mike Boyle also had strong games.