GREG White scored his second and most important try in Pirates colours at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday as they snatched victory from Moree in the final minutes.
The Englishman crossed with just over a minute to go to lift Pirates to a 26-20 win and hand the Bulls their first defeat for the season.
It was the first time the two had met since last year’s major semi-final and, like then, there was little between them.
In fact, in their three encounters last year the most that separated them was four points.
The Bulls won all three and looked like making it four in a row when fullback Heath Riggs kicked them to a 20-19 lead with just over five minutes to go.
Although the way the game had gone you got the sense that there might still be another twist.
And there was.
Pirates got the ball back from the kick-off but were penalised for holding on.
But they were given a reprieve when the Bulls committed the cardinal sin of not finding touch.
That gave Pirates a few minutes to either try to crack the Bulls’ defence or earn a penalty.
They did, but as they had done a number of times, particularly through the second half, they took the quick tap, and a couple of phases later found White, who scored under the posts.
“They just hung in there,” coach Andrew Verrell said.
“No-one panicked like teams of old would have.”
Verrell was delighted with the win, especially after the position they were in in the first half.
“We had no ball – we were getting caned in the penalties,” he said.
They almost had a brilliant start but Bulls fullback Heath Riggs managed to get across in cover and push Pirates winger Sam Bowden into touch.
The game wasn’t even a couple of minutes old then.
Riggs then put the Bulls ahead with a penalty but Pirates hit straight back.
It was a bit the theme of the game, with the penalties flowing freely, and both sides consequently struggling to find their rhythm or build any momentum.
The Bulls had the better of any in the first half and went into the break 17-11 up on the back of tries to Ciaran O’Gorman and John Adams.
Both tries were well-constructed forwards’ tries.
The first came from a lineout drive from about 20m. Adams then scored just before the break after a series of pick and drives.
In between, Jake Douglas showed why is considered such a dangerous player, setting up Doug Biffin with a brilliant run from inside their half.
Pirates had to play the last few minutes of the first half and seven of the second a man down after Tim Fonua was binned for tackling the player in the air, but made the running early in the second with replacement backrower Sam Jackson ruled to be held up just a few minutes in.
Moodie closed the gap to three points with 22 to go, and, shortly after, they were back in front with Douglas breaking through two or three tackles to this time set up winger Ned O’Neil-Shaw.
Moodie couldn’t land the conversion from the sideline, making it 19-17 with just over 14 minutes to go.
Verrell had not long before sent out the message “ball in hand, time in possession”.
“They got into the mindset of trying to territorially defend,” he said.
The change in tactic had the desired effort, with Pirates having the better of the play in the closing stages.
Bulls co-coach Peter Copeman said it was a game of two halves.
“We played well in the first half,” he said.
“They came back in the second half. We never got in their quarter.”
“We probably knocked up a bit and made some fundamental errors.”
“We kept giving the ball back to them.”