PIRATES’ last visit to Inverell didn’t end the way they would have liked but they won’t be making the same mistake again today.
They can’t afford to, with their premiership defence on the line.
There is no margin for error and no margin to switch off like they did a month ago.
Then they had the Highlanders on the ropes but took their foot off the pedal in the last quarter of the game and had to settle for a draw.
“We’ve got to play for 80,” coach Garry Walsh said.
If they do they’re a “very good chance”. But if they don’t, they can start planning for next season.
Walsh isn’t expecting that to be a problem though.
“We won’t be shutting down or switching off,” he said.
Their goal-kicking was also “dreadful”.
They only landed one out of four conversions and struggled to land any penalty kicks.
But there were plenty of positives to weigh up against that and for most of the game they played as they have to to beat the Highlanders.
They controlled the ball and prevented the Highlanders getting the go-forward that makes them so dangerous.
“For 60 minutes they had no momentum,” Walsh said.
From there though they had all the momentum and Pirates couldn’t stop them.
It all started with one missed tackle and is a reminder of how important it is that they get the Highlanders to the deck as quickly as possible.
“If we don’t execute our tackles we’ll be in a world of pain,” Walsh said.
They only need a little sniff to get a roll-on.
Walsh isn’t expecting anything different to the physical battle last week’s major semi-final was and believes the breakdown will be where it’s won or lost.
“I still believe it’s all about the breakdown,” he said.
“We’ve got to execute there and put the numbers in.”
It’s about generating quick ball. That’s when they thrive and how they can counter the Highlanders’ physical presence.
“They’ll want to slow our ball down,” Walsh said.
“We’ve got to clean out beyond the ball.”
The Highlanders will be lying in wait and, if it’s slow coming out, it will become a bash-fest.
Pirates don’t want that.
They know they can get in behind them and cause them some problems if they can get quick ball.
“Even Walcha last weekend, when they were able to generate quick ball they found them a bit wanting,” Walsh said.
Their form had been a bit scratchy heading into the finals but they showed their finals pedigree against Gunnedah two weeks ago.
It was a finals-worthy performance and if they can reproduce that they will be hard to beat.
“I just want the blokes to replicate that intensity. We played with a real semi-final intensity,” he said.
There was a real ferociousness about their play and they controlled the tempo of the game for a lot of it.
“We’ve got to be controlled, aggressive and willing,” Walsh said.