MOREE had to withstand a late barrage but held on to deny Gunnedah back to back second grade premierships at Weebollabolla Oval on Saturday.
The Bulls operated with little ball or territory for much of the last 20, and a man down for the last 10, but managed to cling on for a 20-17 win.
It was an engrossing contest and one the Bulls looked in charge of for a fair while.
They were almost over in the first minute but had to settle for a penalty a few minutes later.
Fullback Kyle O’Connor then sliced through the Red Devils’ defence and ran almost half the length of the field to put them up 10-nil.
The Red Devils replied through winger Sam Beer after a great break from his counterpart on the other wing Sam Maxwell, and some good hands.
From the kick-off they knocked on though and the Bulls earned a penalty.
The Bulls punished them for it with Will Hiscox running a good line and going straight through off a short ball from five-eighth Nathan Holland for a 17-5 lead at the break.
“We got off to a great start,” Bulls co-coach Josh Connell said.
“But they kept coming at us and coming at us.”
Connell was pretty happy at half-time, and thought having had that extra game the Red Devils might have tired in the second half of the second half.
They instead scored first points with Josh Howarth crashing over after being brought down metres from the line only a couple of phases before.
Holland kicked the Bulls back out to 10 a couple of minutes later, but then with just over 15 to go Red Devils half-back Hamish Hocking took a quick tap and stepped his way to the line to make the difference three.
If the momentum wasn’t with the Red Devils then, then it was when the Bulls lost prop Maciu Latabua to the bin.
But despite a couple of incisive runs and being metres out from the line a couple of times they couldn’t score again.
“Penalties in the second half really cost us,” Connell said.
“One time there they marched us 70.
“It’s really hard to close that field position.”
He said the scrambling defence from the forwards was probably what won it for them.
“They’ve got some good backs.
“They carved us up in broken play,” Connell said.
But they scrambled back to stop them scoring.
Skipper Mick Grant led from the front and had a tireless game.
He was adjudged the player of the grand final.
Adam O’Neile also had a great game.
“He got a lot of ordinary ball,” Connell said.
“But he picked it up well and got us some continuity.”
It was a story of missed opportunities for the Red Devils and it was the simple things that let them down.
“Our strength became one of our weaknesses,” co-coach Tim Walsh said.
He was referring to their lineout.
“We hadn’t lost a lineout in the last month.
“We couldn’t win one today,” he said.
Their last two games they’ve been well up in the first half. On Saturday they had to play catch-up.
“Moree played good football,” Walsh said.
“They put more pressure on us than anyone else has.”
He said they probably got away from what they wanted to do and when the Bulls put the pressure on them they couldn’t handle it.
They all tried their hearts out, he said, but it was hard to go past captain Rob Weinthal.
It was a close call between him and Grant for the player of the grand final.