GUNNEDAH co-coach Tim Walsh believes Saturday was a template for the way the Red Devils need to play if they’re going to make an imprint on the finals.
The Red Devils made some subtle changes to how they attacked, and it paid dividends as they rolled Pirates 36-31.
“We played a bit of a different style,” Walsh said.
“We kicked it a bit more.”
“Another thing we’ve been talking about is getting some of our bigger guys running wider where they can make easier metres.”
Where they’re not running at such a condensed defence, and are a lot harder to handle.
“The two Joshs’(Leys and Howarth) had their best games for a while,” Walsh said.
Howarth finished with two tries and on one occasion dragged three or four defenders over the line with him.
There was a lot of facets of their game that Walsh felt were better on Saturday.
Their attitude was better, their defence was a lot stiffer certainly than the last time they faced Pirates, their lineout picked up and their ball control was a lot better.
“We had lots of the ball today and that helped,” he said.
“That was to do with not making mistakes.”
It was also great to start scoring some tries.
They’ve really struggled to do that in recent weeks.
The Red Devils really looked on top for probably the first 20 minutes of the first half, and first 30 of the second.
But in both halves Pirates came back at them.
“That’s something Nik (Hannaford) and I keep talking about,” Walsh said.
“When we are on top we are very good, but when we get a bit of adversity we struggle.”
“Even in the last few minutes we should have shut the game down before we got to that.”
He was referring to Pirates pegging their way back from 36-19 down with 12 to go to threaten to steal a draw if not the win.
But they managed to hold them out and will get a huge lift from the result.
“Confidence-wise it must do them the world of good,” Walsh said.
Pirates were missing a few of their big guns and had a few players getting their first taste of first grade.
Co-coach Andrew Verrell thought that was a factor, but wasn’t taking anything away from the Red Devils.
“To Gunnedah’s credit, I thought their second half was a good half,” he said.
Pirates had flashes of brilliance, but generally had little continuity. And little clean ball from their set pieces.
Their scrum was constantly under pressure and their lineout was “terrible”.
That was compounded by some “woeful” handling.
Even so they found themselves in front at the break, but with a lot to address.
Their kicking game was also “pretty ordinary”.
“Just aimless kicking,” Verrell said.
“We also had to fix our pillar/post defence up, which we did.”
Their handling was better, but they didn’t really have a lot of the ball until that late surge.
Second rower Charles Elton continued to impress picking up the three points. Jake Douglas got the two and Eion O’Connor the one.
Five-eighth Pete Henderson topped the points for the Red Devils followed by Kesby and John Waugh.