THEY were the backbone of their season and the Red Devil forwards were again at the centre of things as Gunnedah pushed defending premiers Moree in Saturday’s minor semi-final.
Not many had given the Red Devils a chance but they were right in it, with the Bulls getting home 32-24 on the back of some flashes of brilliant attack.
Their ability to keep the ball alive was a real feature and a big factor in the win.
“Their offloading game was fantastic,” Red Devils co-coach Tim Walsh said.
“If we didn’t put someone on the ground straight away there was someone there running in support and with purpose.”
“A few of their tries there were four or five offloads in tackles.”
That is very hard to defend against.
Walsh had said heading in that their chances would rest a lot on whether they could score points.
They were able to, but were ruing not having more than three points to show for their 10-minute period of attack early in the game.
“In that first 15 minutes we made some silly decisions, silly passes,” Walsh said.
At least three times they knocked on in good position trying to be a bit too cute.
“We should have consolidated,” he said.
“It was our chance to get in front.”
He thought Cameron Kesby’s try right on half-time was critical.
It got them back to within two and involved some slick hands from the forwards, with prop Josh Leys laying off a good pass to his front row partner.
As critical as that try was for them, Matt Wannan’s was as far as the game went.
From a two-point game at half-time they found themselves 16 down 10 minutes into the second half.
“That second try was the turning point,” Walsh said.
“Because every time they’d scored we’d scored one back.
“We were never more than two tries behind.”
But then suddenly they had to score three converted tries.
Walsh admitted he was a bit worried at that point. In other games when they’ve let easy points in they’ve been blown away.
They weren’t on Saturday.
What they were was good in the forwards.
“The forwards were fantastic,” Walsh said.
He felt they were on top there.
“I thought we were making better metres,” he said.
Behind them, Pete Henderson was brilliant at five-eighth.
It was the best game Walsh has seen from him.
He really took the ball to the line strongly and, on several occasions, showed it and got through the first couple of tackles.
In two instances that led to tries. One he scored himself, the other set up Kesby’s try,
Walsh was also impressed by some of the younger players such as Keegan Loughrey and Jacob Murray.
At the other end of the spectrum, Matt Hannay tried hard.
The two Josh’s – Leys and Howarth – were very strong again, as was Kesby, but Walsh couldn’t fault anyone in the forwards.
And while they would have liked to continue on, beneath the disappointment there was some satisfaction.
At the start of the season they’d set two goals, Walsh said.
One was to make the top five and the second the top four.
They achieved both of those.