WINGER Sam Bowden bagged four as Pirates’ potent backline carved Gunnedah apart in the second half of their clash at Gunnedah on Saturday.
The Red Devils were brought down from the high of rolling the premiers with a thud, with Pirates running away with the points 49-22 to keep their grip on the competition lead.
They didn’t have it all their own way though.
The home side was well in it at half-time with scores level at 17-all.
But Pirates broke the game open in the second half.
It was a swift and almost clinical assault and started in the first few minutes with Bowden crossing for the first of three second-half tries.
He finished off well – in this instance a good break from outside centre Jake Douglas.
Douglas was a handful all day and ochestrated several of Pirates’ tries.
They were in again a few minutes later with an almost carbon copy play after the Red Devils had turned the ball over from a lineout.
The decisive strike came not long after and after the Red Devils had picked and driven for about eight phases at Pirates’ line only to turn the ball over.
Pirates quickly transitioned to attack and made their way up the other end, with Greg White this time busting through and fullback Jake Hartmann doing the finishing-off.
Coach Andrew Verrell was again singing the praises of his under-strength pack.
“It’s basically a reserve grade pack,” Verrell said.
“Those boys did a great job for us to give us the platform.”
In the first half thay didn’t have a lot of ball or territory but the three touches they did have in their 22 they got points from.
Bowden fittingly started things off, swooping onto a wide ball from the Red Devils and running away about 50m to score.
Gunnedah hit back a few minutes later and, not surprisingly, it came from a scrum.
They felt they could enforce some dominance there and, after earning a penalty, opted for the scrum.
It got the desired result, with the home side driving over.
Douglas and five-eighth Andrew Moodie then combined to put Pirates back in front.
Moodie added a penalty before cooling his heels on the sideline for 10 for a high shot.
The Red Devils struck fairly soon after with the scrum again the cornerstone, a well set-up play opening up the left edge to give half-back Dave Heyman a simple pass off to winger Zac Newcombe.
Peter Henderson converted from the sideline and then a few minutes later landed a penalty to lock the scores up.
Verrell was reasonably happy going into the break, especially with their defence.
“I think that set us up for the second half,” he said.
“I said to them if we can get 40 per cent of the ball we can beat these guys.
“They’re a big pack and we thought they might get tired.”
Red Devils co-coach Tim Walsh labelled Saturday worse than their 41-nil first round effort against Pirates.
“Because we were in it,” Walsh said.
The second half particularly was disappointing.
“Our second half was poor,” he said.
“We didn’t react and the secondary effort wasn’t there.”
They were guilty too of relying on their set pieces to get them home.