NARRABRI 33 PIRATES 31
NARRABRI rode a tidal wave of penalties to snatch its second two point win over Pirates this season at Ken Chillingworth Oval, and in doing so all but secured the minor premiership.
It was unconvincing and ugly at times, but they got the job done 33-31, and only a shock last game slip-up will deny them a spot on top of the ladder.
The talking point from the game wasn’t so much about them and what they did but the pummelling Pirates copped in the penalty count.
They were penalised out of the game conceding over 30 for the game.
It not only gifted the Blue Boars points but piggybacked them up the field and had Pirates and their supporters livid, especially being the second game in a row that ref Michael Haire has caned them in the penalties.
A lot of them were for ruck infringements – either not rolling away, hands in the ruck, or not releasing the tackled player, and some did seem borderline.
Pirates certainly thought so. Their frustration seemed to grow with each blow of the whistle and eventually boiled over to the point that they threatened to walk off the field with co-coach Conrad Starr signalling them to leave the field after Blake Pollock had received his second yellow card of the game with a minute and a half to go.
It left them with only 12 on the field after Starr himself had been binned with nine to go, and Jake Douglas had received his second yellow-card, which then turned into a red, a few minutes earlier.
That was when the Blue Boars made their move. They scored twice in the last 13 minutes.
Both tries came off the back of penalties and from the Blue Boars taking a play out of Pirates’ book from last time they met and taking a quick tap.
Mitch Kelly scored the first to close the gap to 31-26 after the conversion.
Luke Findley then dived over with seven to go to draw them level, and skipper Matt Schwager added the extras to put them two in front.
The flow of penalties made for a very stop-start game, and the Blue Boars by their own admission didn’t play that well.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do. For 50 minutes of the game they were a much better side than us,” co-coach Tom Cullen said.
In the last 30 Narrabri started to show signs of the form that has taken them to the top of the table.
They got a bit more tempo in their game and stayed in control mentally.
“We kept our heads and were able to draw up the field with penalties,” he said.
But up until then Pirates had looked the more dangerous side.
Sam Bowden had given them a great start picking off an intercept and racing away to score inside the first couple of minutes.
The Blue Boars steadily chipped their way to the lead through Schwager’s boot as Pirates started to get on the wrong side of referee Haire.
They conceded nine penalties in the first 20 minutes and for about five of those were down to 13 with Pollock and then Douglas binned.
But they survived and scored pretty much straight after they returned to a full line-up with half-back Cameron Young scoring on the short side off a well-worked scrum.
Schwager’s fourth penalty restored the lead to the Blue Boars, but not for long with Pirates second rower Charles Elton muscling his way over to make it 17-12, which it stayed to the break.
Starved of ball really in the first half Pirates thrived off a bit of continuity and scored twice in six minutes to blow the score out to 31-19 with 23 to go.
But it all unravelled from there, and along with it their hopes of hosting the major semi-final.
Pirates wouldn’t make any comment after the game.
TABLE: Narrabri 66, Pirates 59, Moree 55, Gunnedah 41, Inverell 29.