GUNNEDAH’S forwards were too big and too strong at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday as the Red Devils overpowered Pirates and played their way into the finals.
The Red Devils forwards were immense and orchestrated their upset 36-31 win.
It was just what the Red Devils needed after a lean month and will give them a huge lift heading into their sudden death semi-final against Moree next week.
Pirates will have the week off and face Narrabri in the major semi-final.
The Blue Boars polished off the minor premiership with a 26-nil win over Inverell.
It was a danger game with the way the Highlanders have been playing of late but the Blue Boars didn’t give them a look in.
In Tamworth, the Red Devils forwards revelled in the wet conditions and tighter game.
“The day suited us.
“It was cooler, it was wet and it was slow,” co-coach Tim Walsh said.
“That suits our big players.”
After trailing 19-12 at half-time they really cranked it up in the second half scoring four unanswered tries to push out to what looked to be an unassailable 36-19 lead with 12 minutes to go.
But Pirates came home with a wet sail and threatened to at least snatch a draw.
They scored twice in as many minutes to close within a try with two minutes to go, but the Red Devils held on.
“We played really well and deserved the win,” Walsh said.
They controlled the ball well in the conditions – and a lot better than the home side – and exploited their size advantage well. Pirates really struggled to handle the likes of Josh Howarth and Josh Leys and they made a lot of metres.
Their maul and pick and drive game were also good, and the scrum and lineout were real weapons for them, especially the scrum.
They were dominant there, their first two tries coming from forcing scrum turnovers.
The first they messed up a quick tap but pushed the Pirates scrum off the ball and a few phases later Cameron Kesby burrowed over.
Minutes later they won a scrum against the feed and John Waugh dived on the ball to put them up 12-nil after just eight minutes.