INVERELL’S jubilation after Saturday’s win over Tamworth was a notable contrast to the Magpies’ disappointment and frustration.
For the third game in a row, the Magpies won the second half only to not get over the line, after giving their opposition too many points in the first half.
On Saturday, the Highlanders led 35-15 at the break after punishing the Magpies for some sloppy defence and at one stage running in three tries in the space of five minutes.
“We really need to build phases and settle into the game,” Magpies co-coach Ross Duncan said.
“We couldn’t do that.”
Their one-on-one tackling was atrocious, which was exacerbated by the options in support the Highlanders had.
All of the Highlanders’ tries in the first half came from someone brushing off a defender and, for several of them, multiple would-be tacklers.
The visitors were struck a late blow, with hooker Rhys Graham red-carded for stomping.
Highlanders coach Scott Bremner admitted he was a bit concerned having to play the entire second half with only 14.
“It’s always a concern.
“If the opposition plays smart, and they did, and be quite patient they’ll find some holes,” he said.
Fortunately they had enough of a lead.
There wasn’t a lot at half-time to address.
They looked on top and were playing some good football.
“I spoke at half-time about taking it steady and not trying to score off first phase,” he said.
“I probably should have not said anything.”
It was almost like the two sides switched jerseys and, while they fell away, the Magpies lifted.
“We had more intent, carried the ball a bit stronger and made our tackles,” Duncan said.
“It was evident from the kick-off we were a different team.”
They turned the ball over from the kick-off and had their first try within the first couple of minutes.
“We got territory and possession and, on the back of that, points came,” Duncan said.
They got back to within eight with just over half an hour to go but then conceded two quick tries.
“We needed a bit of composure,” Duncan said.
“But all of a sudden we got a bit mentally fragile and rushed things.”
He thought Matt Blanch was good at half-back. He came in injured and was on one leg by the end of it.
He ended up coming off with about 10 minutes to go, with Duncan having to run on to plenty of cheers from the crowd.
Luke Neal also did a pretty good job coming in at five-eighth, Duncan said, as did Smith on the wing after being a late call-up for Lachlan McIntosh.