GLEN Innes Magpies’ strong 34-20 win over a tough, uncompromising Inverell at the weekend was anything but pretty but typified the way they’ve gone about their work in 2014’s unbeaten five-game stretch.
For much of the game there was little separating the two sides and Inverell mentor Peter Stevens agreed there was not much between them.
“We were just a half step behind most of the game and, although the scoreboard says there was a reasonable gap, I thought it was closer than the scores indicate,” Stevens said.
“We really competed well.
“We had a try disallowed just before halftime and they scored one with 12 seconds to go.
“That was a crucial 12-point turnaround.”
Magpie coach Sam Key agreed with Stevens’ assessment of the physical encounter.
“They are a tough, big side and were very hard all game,” he said.
“I was really impressed with our defence.
“Our line speed and effort in defence under pressure were really good.”
Man of the match was again big prop Jeff Moate who relished the tough encounter and made numerous huge, front-on tackles but his power running made just as big an impact.
Five minutes into the match he surged across the line but was held up. Not to be denied, he charged again just two tackles later for the opening try.
Winger Todd Prince’s two tries for Inverell were countered by a tremendous 20m run to the line from prop Mone Loketi and Key’s dummy-half dart just before the break when the home side held a narrow 18-12 advantage.
Moate started the second half with a huge return from the kick-off and a couple of tackles later, five-eighth Nick Ehsman sent a smart, short pass to centre Craig Browne on the blind side.
The youngster galloped 30m before finding half Nick Say in support for the try and a valuable 12-point lead.
With 12 minutes remaining, Loketi charged 80m from his own 10m line in a tackle-busting surge that had the good crowd on their feet for a highlight of a tough game.
While happy with the win, Key was concerned with the number of penalties his team conceded, especially in the second half.
“But I was really impressed with our defence.
“Jeff (Moate) was massive for us and he just keeps doing it.
“Some of Mone’s (Loketi) runs were awesome but it was a tough game and a good hitout for next week against the Boomerangs.”
Apart from the two props, Glen was well served by Key and Browne while Say’s work in defence was excellent.
Second-rower Rod Bull had a big hand in Prince’s two tries for Inverell and worked hard for the Hawks as did props Brendan Crichlow and Sam Briggs while half Luke Thom was always busy.
Best for Inverell were centre Corey Garrett and versatile new Kiwi recruit Metui Kale Kale.
“He can play front row, back row or centre,” Stevens said.
“He’s big and quick – he’s going to be very good for us.”
While Glen Innes and Moree Boomerangs play a huge top of the table clash at Kerry Mead Park on Saturday, Inverell has a local derby at Varley Oval against Ashford Roosters.
Armidale Rams also have a big trip to Moree to play the Boars and Goondiwindi Boars host Uralla at Gilbert Oval, Goondiwindi.