PIRATES shrugged off any early season jitters with a comprehensive 41-point shut-out of Gunnedah at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday.
The home side outclassed and outgunned the Red Devils in what was their strongest performance of the season.
“That was our best game without a doubt,” coach Andrew Verrell said.
There was a lot to like about it, especially how the attack functioned, but it was the way they didn’t allow the Red Devils to get into the game that Verrell was most pleased about.
“We shut them out of the game. That was the best part about it,” he said.
“We didn’t allow them to get a leg in.”
He could find little to fault, although he did show some exasperation at times.
But that was more from that final pass not sticking with tries in the offing.
They would have left three or four tries go begging.
The signs were ominous for the visitors when, from the kick-off they were penalised for holding on.
However, Andrew Moodie skewed the kick from close range.
Fortunately it wasn’t a telling moment for the home side with Moodie successful a few minutes later.
Pirates were unable to add to that until the final 10 minutes despite consistently looking threatening.
The Red Devils were rarely in their half, let alone 22, and missed with their only real opportunity for points.
Not long after they were reduced to 14 with prop Josh Leys binned for trying to trip Pirates breakaway Josh Stewart. Pirates were quick to take advantage with fullback Jake Hartmann scoring off a well-worked scrum play.
They lured the Red Devils into thinking they were going to spread it wide but instead Hartmann chimed in between the five-eighth (Moodie) and inside centre and into a yawning gap.
The conversion made it 10-nil with just over seven minutes of the first half remaining.
Conrad Starr then made it 15-nil just before the break.
It wasn’t one of Pirates’ better-constructed tries – coming from a lineout throw that went awry but fell fortuitously their way – yet pushed them beyond a two-try advantage.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first finished, with Pirates doing the attacking.
The Red Devils somehow managed to prevent Hartmann scoring his second just a few minutes in, but couldn’t stop Starr a minute later.
They were in again virtually from the kick-off, Ben Goodman barging over after centre Greg White had bamboozled the Red Devils defence and run it from just outside their 22 into the Red Devils’ quarter.
That made it 29-nil and put the stamp on the win for Pirates, not that it really ever looked in doubt.
The Red Devils didn’t have to search far for answers for where it went wrong.
“Our first-up defence was pretty ordinary,” co-coach Tim Walsh said.
The second problem was they couldn’t win enough ball.
“We probably only had 30-40 per cent and most of that was in the wrong end of the field,” Walsh said.
“We were always coming out of our 22 and when we got down field we couldn’t build enough pressure.”