PIRATES have pulled a bit of a major semi-final surprise, pushing Doug Biffin into the front row.
More customarily a backrower, Biffin has been named to start at loosehead against Narrabri today as Pirates and the Blue Boars fight it out for first spot in the grand final and home advantage for the decider.
It’s not a totally foreign position for him, although he hasn’t played there often, and it was a case of picking the best eight and trying to fit them in.
That was one of the reasons co-coach Andrew Verrell gave for the move.
“It also gives us more mobility in the back three,” Verrell said, with Michael Carr to wear the six.
It effectively gives them two opensides and, he hopes, give them a bit of leverage around the park.
“I think it’ll give us an edge,” he said.
“It’s pointless me pulling my hair out over the scrum.
“We need to try to get an edge somewhere else.”
They do play a very “tackle contest style of rugby”.
It got them into trouble when they played the Blue Boars last time but was a key to them getting the win out there.
That loss a few weeks ago did hit them pretty hard, and has taken a bit to get over, but Verrell is confident they have put it behind them.
“We’ve been completely focused on how we are going to beat Narrabri,” he said.
Two of the crucial components to that will be the set pieces and being able to facilitate that up-tempo style they thrive on.
It is one of the secrets to their success, and was a big factor in the win they had over the Blue Boars.
“If you look at the way that game was played, it was at a pace that suits us,” Verrell said.
The Blue Boars, in contrast, build a lot of their game from their set pieces and, for Pirates, one of the keys will be how they deal with that.
“We need to be competitive at set piece against these guys and try to nullify their ability to bring (Brenton) Cochrane into the game,” Verrell said.
The Blue Boars will be chasing their first home grand final in over 20 years and have won two of their three encounters against Pirates.
They have hit form coming into the finals, with their last round effort against Inverell some of the best football they’ve played.
“The first 50 against Inverell was the best we’ve played all year,” co-coach Hunter Harley said.
He said the big thing for them today was what they do in their half.
They’ve got stick to their structures and maintain their discipline getting out of their half.
“When we get down their end we know we can score points,” he said.
But they’ve got to get out of their half.
“A lot of that rests on the forwards’ shoulders,” he said.
“They’ve got to get us on the front foot.”
Defence will also be a critical factor.
“We have to tackle well,” Harley said.
“Defence wins these games.
“You look at their stats. They’ve scored a hell of a lot of points.”
They boast the best attacking record in the competition.
And the Blue Boars the best defence.