IT still wasn’t perfect but Pirates gave their strongest indication yet on Saturday that they’re going to be contenders again.
Coach Andrew Verrell could pick little fault with his side’s 41-nil win over Gunnedah, aside from the occasional dropped ball or poor pass that robbed them of a try.
Everything else worked well.
“There were some good patterns of play,” he said.
“We actually simplified it coming back into the game to try to get on the front foot.
“The support lines were good and some some of the back starter plays were good.”
The backs were a handful for the Red Devils’ defence all game.
Centres Greg White and Jake Douglas particularly. They consistently penetrated the defensive line.
Their strong-running style was complemented by the slipperiness of fullback Jake Hartmann.
He chimed into the backline with great effect and often got through the first tackle.
“He’s grown another leg,” Verrell said.
“He’s matured just in these three games.”
But across the park they were good.
“The forwards’ breakdown work was good,” Verrell said.
“We’re working on the ability of the defence in the ruck area.
“They were very good today at identifying numbers and then making the decision whether they want to flood the tackle.”
They weren’t often caught short in defence, and Verrell was as pleased with the nil as the 41.
Not that defence has been the issue. It’s their structure around attack that has been the concern the first two games.
They had identified, and had an obvious ploy to rush up on the Red Devils’ inside backs and shut down that channel between the five-eighth and inside centre.
Which they did well, with the Red Devils’ centres often finding themselves on the backfoot when they got the ball and being driven back.
Another part of the reason for that was that the ball was slow coming out.
“All we wanted was to get quick ball.
“That didn’t happen,” co-coach Tim Walsh said.
That hampered their attack, as did their apparent disjointedness in the backline.
They had no rhythm.
“It looked like a different backline to the one that played against Moree,” Walsh said.
It was pretty much the same.
“The individual effort was great but the group effort wasn’t there,” he said.
Fullback James Perrett tried to spark them and instigated many of their brightest moments.
Breakaways Jeremy Brown and Rob Weinthal also tackled themselves to a standstill.
Verrell said it was hard to single out players but thought Hartmann, Doug Biffin and Matt Kelly were their best.