THE PIRATES paid the price for not taking points on Saturday as Narrabri came from behind to beat them 20-18 at Ken Chillingworth Oval.
The match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Blue Boars have become known as physical affairs and the opening game of the season didn’t disappoint.
The rematch of last season’s preliminary final started with Pirates dominating possession and camped on Narrabri’s line.
For 12 minutes, the Blue Boars’ defence stood solid before Pirates winger Ned O’Neil-Shaw crashed over in the right corner.
Narrabri then retaliated in kind with 15 minutes of relentless attack of its own.
The result was the same, with winger Jydon Hill scoring in the right corner as well.
The only difference between the two teams at halftime was that Narrabri’s kicker Michael Cain didn’t miss.
Cain didn’t miss all day, including two from the sidelines that proved the difference.
Pirates, on the other hand, were offered a couple of penalties in front and didn’t take the points, much to the dismay of coach Andrew Verrell.
“Our decision-making was woeful,” Verrell said.
“It was not a good day at the office.”
Two penalties after halftime extended Narrabri’s lead to 13-5.
At the end of three straight infringement penalties, Pirates finally took three points, and then another to be behind 13-11 with 27 minutes to go.
An intercept try to Narrabri 17-year-old flyer Will McDonald put the Blue Boars out to 20-11.
Conrad Starr then scored a try under the posts to put Pirates back in the game.
With four minutes to go, Pirates failed to find touch for the second time with a penalty kick, handing back possession and any chance of winning the game.
Narrabri coach Tom Cullen was visibly relieved when the whistle went.
“It was a tough win and I think we were lucky it rained a bit,” Cullen said.
“We knew we didn’t have the fitness to beat them so the slower pitch was in our favour.”
Cullen made a last-minute decision to move dual code star Brenton Cochrane to fullback.
“We didn’t want them kicking to our corners and running us around like that,” Cullen said.
“I knew they wouldn’t kick to Brenton.”
Tim O’Brien was at his disruptive best in defence at times, slowing the ball down at the breakdown.
Todd Farrar was also a powerhouse in the pack but it was the boot of Cain from the sideline that won the game.
The victory over Pirates gives Narrabri an early leg-up into the top tier as it now plays Quirindi and Barraba in the next two rounds.
Pirates will have to have a look at their game before next week’s derby with the Magpies at Rugby Park.
“The points of discussion for training this week are substantial,” Verrell said.
“There were phases and glimpses of good play but we weren’t doing what we set out to do.”
Former Warringah player Tim Fonua had a good debut for Pirates at second row, while Starr and Andrew Wynne also worked hard in the pack.