NARRABRI overcame a tenacious Inverell and penalty count weighted against it on Saturday to keep its undefeated record intact and assume the Central North competition lead.
The Highlanders gave the Blue Boars a real test at Dangar Park but the home side was too strong for them, running out 30-13 winners.
Both sides though felt the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the game.
“It was a tough game. Inverell were really up for it,” Blue Boars co-coach Hunter Harley said.
The Blue Boars led 10-6 at half-time but were lucky to be in front.
They got caned in the penalties, Harley said, and only got their first with about five to go in the first half.
They kicked a penalty from that.
Beau Brummell then scored from another.
That was on the bell and put them ahead at the break.
Around half the penalties against them were while they were in possession, Harley said.
The second half was a bit better and the forwards really stamped their dominance.
“Our forwards played really well,” Harley said.
“They built the phases all day and were the impetus of the win.”
They contrived two of the Blue Boars’ tries from good play off set pieces – one off a lineout drive from about 10-15m out and another a pushover scrum about 5m out.
“It was the sort of game we needed,” Harley said.
“We needed to be tested physically and as a team.”
They haven’t really since Pirates in the first round.
While Todd Farrer led the forwards well, Harley couldn’t heap enough praise on breakaway Tim O’Brien.
“If he wasn’t running the ball, he was tackling and cleaning out, or pilfering,” he said.
Half-back Matt Schwager was also good, he said, although the backs didn’t have the impact they have in recent weeks.
That was partly to do with the penalties stifling their attack and partly the Highlanders’ defence.
Henry Curtin, Brummell, and Sam Clements also had strong games.
The loss sees the Highlanders slip back to outright sixth but coach Scott Bremner was a lot happier than he has been the last couple of weeks.
“I’m immensly proud of their effort,” he said.
“They dead set played well. Narrabri would have known they were in a contest.”
They are a young and developing side and were outsized in the forwards.
“Eventually their superior size in the pack wore us down,” Bremner said.
That was probably the difference in the end.
They didn’t do a lot wrong, especially in the first half.
“It was the complete reverse of last week’s half-time chat,” he said.
Tala Vea was their best in what was a mammoth effort after being riddled with the flu all week.
Amanaki Pakalani got the two points, with Bremner giving the rest of the team one.