NARRABRI will have the chance to throw the ultimate 50th anniversary party after securing its first home grand final for over 20 years with a come-from-behind two-point win over Pirates on Saturday.
The Blue Boars overhauled a 10-point half-time deficit to edge Pirates out 22-20 and continue their trend of two- point wins over them.
They’ve won three of their four meetings this season – and all three by two points.
Saturday was a see-sawing affair and really a game of two halves.
Pirates looked the better side early and jumped out to a 10-nil lead after just 10 minutes.
They scored inside the first couple, Josh Stewart – on his back on the ground – popping the ball up to backrow partner Michael Carr.
The home side started to get a bit of parity, at least territory-wise through the middle period, but for one reason or another couldn’t get the ball over the line.
They were held up. Another time they were penalised for holding on after five or six launches at Pirates’ line, with the visitors’ defence holding firm.
Eventually they got some reward, with Matt Schwager landing a penalty to close the gap to 10-3 with just over 12 minutes until halftime.
By then they were starting to look on top and Schwager almost had a chance to equalise after a brilliant run from fullback Brenton Cochrane.
But he was ruled to have spilled the ball as he tried to keep it alive as he was pushed into touch, and a penalty on the bell allowed Andrew Moodie to restore Pirates’ 10-point buffer at the break.
The Blue Boars drew first blood in the second half, winger Tom Lynch twisting his way over after the Blue Boars forwards had picked and driven for a handful of phases.
There wasn’t anything deceptive about what they were doing but it was effective and, on 21 minutes to go, they hit the front.
This time it was five-eighth Henri Knight profiting from the good work from the forwards, Michael Cain’s conversion putting them out by two.
The forwards were making a lot of inroads close to the ruck and keeping Pirates pinned in their half and, with just over 10 to go, Cochrane extended the Blue Boars’ lead to nine.
It was short-lived though, with Pirates hitting back almost straight away through Moodie to make it a two-point game again.
The Blue Boars had the chance to push it out to five with under four to go but Cain’s attempt was unsuccessful.
But they got the ball back and wound the clock down through the forwards for the last two minutes, eventually drawing a penalty.
It typified the control the forwards played with, in the second half particularly.
Their tight play was what won it for them, co-coach Tom Cullen said.
“We knew how they (Pirates) were going to play, putting their breakaway in as prop.
“They wanted to play that open game,” Cullen said.
“Our game plan was to keep it tight and capitalise on our set piece.”
“We probably didn’t do that until the last 10 minutes of the first half.”
That was when he felt the momentum start to shift, Lynch’s try further fuelling that.
“I thought when we scored that first try if we continued to play in this area of the park – in the middle and keep it tight – one off, two off we could control it,” Cullen said.
For Pirates, it was a story of too much dropped ball in the second half.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” co-coach Andrew Verrell said.
“But we were terrible in the second half.
“I have no idea why we dropped the amount of ball we did.”
That wasn’t taking anything away from the Blue Boars – they played smart.