FULLBACK Brenton Coch-rane again provided the magic spark as Narrabri survived a late scare from Gunnedah at Dangar Park on Saturday to jump back to the top of the Central North standings.
The Blue Boars were given a bit of a fright when the Red Devils pegged back a 12-point half-time deficit to close within just three with 10 minutes to go.
But they managed to find the line again to get home 28-20.
Much to the Blue Boars’ relief, especially after they felt they probably should have been up by about 30 at halftime.
“We had three or four tries that went begging.
“Just that last pass,” co-coach Hunter Harley said.
It either went to ground, got knocked on or they turned it over.
They did make some good incisions, he said.
Cochrane was the instigator of many of those and – just as he was in their earlier encounter when he ignited the late charge that saw the Blue Boars snatch the lead at half-time – was the difference.
“In hindsight, we probably didn’t stop Brenton well enough,” Red Devils co-coach Tim Walsh said.
“He was the difference again.”
He had a hand in at least three of the Blue Boars’ tries, scoring one himself and setting up the other two.
While happy to get the win, Harley was disappointed in elements of the performance.
“I’m really proud of the effort and attitude,” he said.
“Just sometimes the execution was lacking a bit.”
Despite that, he said he never felt like they were going to lose, although he was a bit worried when the Red Devils got it back to three.
They had led 18-6 at half-time and started the second half well.
“We started up-tempo and ran them ragged, and that worked,” Harley said.
But not for long.
At one stage in the second half, Harley said, they spent 20 minutes inside their own 30.
The Red Devils picked up a couple of tries in that time, although Harley wasn’t down on his side’s defence.
There wasn’t a lot they could have done to stop a couple of the tries. One came from a scrum pushover and another a quick tap.
Along with Cochrane, Todd Farrer and Tim O’Brien also had strong games, while Matt Nott finished well for a couple of tries.
Walsh thought Gunnedah played pretty well.
They did make a few errors but that wasn’t surprising under the conditions.
The Blue Boars were probably a bit better on capitalising on their mistakes than they were on the home side’s.
They didn’t have a lot of ball in the first half and weren’t able to really build any continuity.
“We started to get on top in the forwards more than anything as the game wore on,”Walsh said.
That was where they made the ground.
The scrum was again really good, as emphasised by that pushover try. They were a man down then too, with hooker Matt Hannay in the bin.
It was “the same old story” when they got back to within three, Walsh said.
They have had a terrible problem, he said, of as soon as they score letting the opposition hit back, and that’s what they did.
The forward effort was reflected in the points, with number eight Joe Gardiner picking up the three, half-back Dave Heyman the one, and props Cameron Kesby and Josh Leys sharing the one.