Bears out to cement top spot by beating Gunnedah

NORTH Tamworth can muzzle Gunnedah’s Group 4 minor premiership hopes and effectively seal top spot at Jack Woolaston Oval tomorrow. 

A desperate Narrabri defender clings to North Tamworth's Brad Marshall during last Sunday's rout. The Bears can effectively wrap up the minor premiership by beating Gunnedah tomorrow. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060716GGE16

A desperate Narrabri defender clings to North Tamworth's Brad Marshall during last Sunday's rout. The Bears can effectively wrap up the minor premiership by beating Gunnedah tomorrow. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060716GGE16

With a four-point buffer heading in, the points would push the Bears three wins clear and make them near impossible to run down.

“It gives us a bit of breathing room on the rest of the pack,” Bears coach Brad McManus said.

The Bulldogs lead the pack followed by cross-town rivals West Tamworth. 

The Bears got the job done against the Bulldogs when the sides last met but know they are the hunted.

“They’ll be coming over here to get us,” McManus said.

He isn’t reading too much into the Bulldogs’ slip-up against West Lions last week.

If anything, he’s expecting that to give them a bit more bite.

“They’ve got a pretty handy side,” he said.

“When we played them out there last time they were pretty physical.

“We’re expecting that again.”

He felt it would be won up the middle.

“I’m pretty happy with the forward pack we’ve got,” McManus said.

“I think if we can beat them up the middle that will set the platform for blokes like Abel Carney to do what they do.”

It’s been the secret of their success this season, with the outside backs reaping the rewards of the platform the forwards have laid.

That was evident against Narrabri last week, with centre Zac Russ scoring four as the Bears racked up 86 points.

They were equally as impressive in defence, keeping the Blues scoreless.

“We’ll be looking to carry that through,” McManus said.

They have been prone to leaking a few points towards the back end of games.

For the Bulldogs, it’s not so much about the result. It’s more about the performance after the disappointing display against the Lions.

“It’s about us bouncing back from last week,” coach Shane Rampling said.

“If we get the win that’s a bonus but we just want a better performance.”

It is a going to be a big ask  and Rampling said they would have to be at their best to even be competitive but if things go their way they are more than capable of springing an upset.

A lot will hinge on how they front up defensively.

“We know we can score points. That isn’t a problem,” Rampling said.

It’s stopping them and they will need to improve their decision-making in defence.

Rampling also spoke about sticking their tackles, and hassling the Bears.

“Against a side like Norths you’ve got to get up in their face, put pressure on them,” he said.

“Too much this year they’ve dictated their games.”

They are the only Saturday game, with Narrabri hosting Oxley and West at home to Wee Waa on Sunday.

In the second division games tomorrow, Barraba will be looking to climb back into the top two against Werris Creek, while Bendemeer heads out to Boggabri and table-topper Kootingal hosts cellar dweller Manilla.

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