ZEB Buchanan has come to Pirates’ aid and will jump into the half-back hot seat for their match-up with Moree at Ken Chillingworth Oval today.
Pirates coach Andrew Verrell sent out an SOS after they lost Cameron Young and then replacement half-back Tony O’Donnell within a matter of minutes to serious injuries against Scone last week.
“We’ve got to write both of them off at this stage,” Verrell said.
They’re looking at a best-case scenario four-six weeks.
Now playing in Newcastle, and playing well, Buchanan is home for the weekend and said he would help out.
It’s a one-week measure at this stage but a pretty good one and, with Jake Hartmann at five-eighth outside of him, it will give Pirates a bit of zip around the halves.
That will suit the up-tempo game Pirates want to play.
“We’re better when we play more up-tempo and expansive,” Verrell said.
They’ll need to too.
“We don’t want to butt heads with them,” Verrell said.
He said they can’t afford to get into an arm wrestle with the Bulls.
“They’ll have a crack at us, want to play it tight,” he said.
“Somehow we’ve got to defend against that.
“Their maul is pretty potent.”
As they learnt the last time they met.
“It may well end up similar to last time,” Verrell said.
“They dominated us in the forwards and we had a slight edge in the backs.”
There was nothing in it and went down to the wire, with Pirates snatching victory in the final minutes.
One area they will be looking to pick up in is set pieces.
“Our set piece against them last time was pretty ordinary,” Verrell said.
“Our lineout needs to function well.”
That is probably going to be their primary source of set piece possession, with Verrell expecting a real battle in the scrums.
The Bulls are coming off a tough 8-all draw with old foes Narrabri and are still feeling the effects, with centres Angus Boileau and Damien Meppem both set to miss today after picking up injuries.
They’ll also be without strong running number eight Matt Wannan (honeymoon).
Injuries aside, Kelly said it was good to get some tough rugby again last week.
“We probably hadn’t had a game like that since the last time we played Pirates,” he said.
He said both sides know what each other’s strengths are.
It’s just a matter of who can play to theirs better.
“We’ve got to play a bit smarter this time,” Kelly said.
“We played too much footy in our own half.”
Especially in the second half.
It’s hard to win games from there.
“If we can get some field territory and get down there we can ask them a few questions,” Kelly said.
But if they play like they did last time it’ll be a long day.
Kelly has no doubt Pirates will be trying to pin them down in their half.
“We know it’s coming. We have to try to counter that,” he said.
In the other top tier game, Narrabri will host Gunnedah.