Stage set for weekend of northern blockbusters

STATE of Origin might be the top- billing sporting contest this week but three huge rugby league games dominate the local landscape.

Mone Loketi crashes it up into the Inverell Hawks’ defence in Saturday’s bruising Group 19 clash. Photo: John Hamilton

Mone Loketi crashes it up into the Inverell Hawks’ defence in Saturday’s bruising Group 19 clash. Photo: John Hamilton

Greater Northern Tigers tackle Western Division in a Tier 2 Country Championship semi-final at Singleton’s ResCo Park on Saturday.

The best players from Groups 4, 19 and 21 have been selected in the Tigers to challenge for a Country Championship Tier 2 Final berth in Tamworth next month.

Group 19 and Group 4 will also feature big top-of-the-table clashes this weekend.

Reigning Group 19 premiers Moree Boomerangs, fresh from Saturday’s 58-30 local derby win over Moree Boars, head to Glen Innes and a clash with unbeaten competition leaders Glen Innes.

The Magpies warmed up for that top-of-the-table clash with a hard- fought 44-32 win over Inverell Hawks at Kerry Mead Park on Saturday.

Inverell Hawks coach Peter Stevens reckoned it a tough match.

“It was a  very, very physical game, a slog fest,”  Stevens said.

“Glen Innes were very good but the game was there to win for us.”

He lamented two decisions just before halftime that cost his side a 12-point swing.

Instead of leading at the major break, his side trailed 18-12.

Gunnedah Bulldogs also warmed up for their huge top-of-the-table showdown with North Tamworth by coming from behind to beat reigning premiers West Lions 42-38 at Kitchener Park on Saturday.

The Lions led 18-14 at halftime and scored again straight after halftime but the Shane Rampling-coached Bulldogs rallied strongly in the second half to win 42-38.

Bulldogs coach Shane Rampling described it as one of the most courageous and determined wins he’s seen.

“We were under the pump early in the second half,’ Rampling said.

“We were down 18-14 at half time and then they scored just after the break. 

“We could have laid down and felt sorry for ourselves but they all dug deep and came back, scored two quick tries and were right back in it.”

North Tamworth remains unbeaten after coming from a two-point halftime deficit to beat Narrabri Blues 58-30 at Collins Park, Narrabri yesterday.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday night’s game against Gunnedah,” Bears coach Brad McManus said after his side reeled off a great second 40 minutes.

“A win out here is worth four points later in the season.”

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