GLEN Innes Magpies head into this weekend’s huge Group 19 local derby against Inverell Hawks with a 50-34 victory over Goondiwindi Boars their most recent success.
For Glen Innes coach Sam Key, Saturday’s win was much the same as so many of the Magpies’ 2014 victories.
“I’m happy to forget the second half and move onto Inverell next weekend,” he said after the Magpies “lost” the second half 18 - 28 against a committed Goondi Bears outfit.
“For a while there in the first half we played some really good football. Our lines were good, our plays were coming off and we must have scored 30 points in about 25 minutes.
“But then we had the break and came out a bit like the weather, flat and dreary.”
Of course, losing blockbusting young second rower, Jock Waters, in the first three minutes of the second half didn’t help their cause. With the departure of powerhouse prop Jeff Moate just prior to the end of June, Waters has become an even more vital cog in the Magpies’ team and his head injury robbed them of important “go forward” for the half.
Glen scored six first half tries as their big men frequently made ground against a visiting lineup that seemed hesitant in defence but the 32-6 lead was quickly eroded after half time when Goondi scored the first three tries and Glen seemed to lack commitment in defence.
Leading by only 10 points, Glen turned their fortunes around through two tries to man-of-the-match, hooker Jamie Watts, but the Boars kept on coming and were right in the match until the final seconds when big prop Mone Loketi charged over to bookend the list of try-scorers.
“We need more commitment to training from the squad now that the late season is here and play-offs are just around the corner,” Key said.
“I’m disappointed in the way we won but happy to take the two points. I’m never unhappy with a win.”
And while the scoreboard might indicate a reasonably comfortable ‘day at the office’, there were periods of the second half when Goondi looked a big chance of overpowering the front-runners, despite the Magpies dominant first half.
The game opened slowly with frequent dropped ball. Glen completed their second set in the 11th minute when powerhouse prop, Mone Loketi, opened the scoring with a dynamic surge to the line.
That signaled a period of excellent play by the home team who ran in quick-fire tries to second rower Jock Waters (14th minute), winger Andrew Grob (17th), prop Sam Schiffman (24th), fullback Ben Lonergan (28th) and big centre Craig Browne (30th) who stormed onto an inside pass from Sam Key to score easily and give Glen a 32 - 0 lead.
Goondi raised some hopes with an excellent try to second rower Matthew Lloyd just minutes later and came out after the break with renewed vigour and a much better commitment.
Ricky McGrady scored a nice try in the 47th minute, followed by live-wire fullback Matt Hempstead (53rd) and Aaron Rodilossi (55th) and quite suddenly the contest was back on and, at 32-22, no one was writing off the Boars chances.
On the hour mark, Magpies’ outstanding hooker, Jamie Watts, caught the defence on the back foot with a determined try from 15 metres out following a tap penalty and Glen led 38 - 22. Malcolm McGrady, Callum Skinner and Lloyd all scored for Goondi in the following 11 minutes, but in the midst of that onslaught Watts again crossed for Glen and with five minutes left, Glen clung to a tenuous 44 - 34 lead. Right on fulltime, the ball found its way into the copious arms of Loketi and the prop scored a brilliant individual try from 20 metres.
“When things were going well for us, our combination and team work were really good,” said Key, who landed seven conversions.
“But when things got difficult, we went back to relying on pieces of individual brilliance. That’s when Nick (half Say) and I should be taking more control and making things happen for the team.”
Lock Adam Upton along with two-try duet, Watts and Loketi were Glen’s best while Goondiwindi were well served by Lloyd who got a double and fullback Hempstead who was always dangerous.