There was no disguising Pirates coach Matt Kelly’s joy following his side’s 36-18 defeat of Moree at Tamworth on Saturday.
“The best (win) of the year,” he said outside the changing room with a big smile etched on his face.
For Kelly, the most pleasing aspect of the win was the challenge he set his starting 15 – one that they met.
Kelly told them before the match that he did not plan to use the bench, and he was not kidding.
The move paid off handsomely.
“Those minutes on the paddock, and that style of win against quality opposition, will be invaluable,” he said.
“I told the boys before the game that they were all equal out there and they were all having to put in for the 80 minutes, and I took that quite literally.
“No one wanted to miss out on that.
“None of the boys shirked their responsibility out there and they all did their part.”
The Pirates sit second on the ladder behind Walcha on percentage with three wins from the opening three rounds.
Kelly said the win over sixth-placed Moree, which came after the home side led 19-10 at halftime, had laid the foundation for the rest of the season.
“We’ll build on that to no end,” he said.
“So far all the games have been nowhere near that quality.
“And it was just really good to see against quality opposition that we could lift it up a gear.”
The Pirates tries came through props Bart Leach and Ben Goodman, flanker Doug Biffin, backrower Conrad Starr, five-eighth Andrew Moodie and winger Andrew Mepham.
Moodie booted three goals.
Kelly said the players’ effort was the most pleasing aspect of the win.
“We had to defend a whole lot,” he said.
“They threw everything they had at us, and it was good to see that we could go on with the game and play the 80 minutes and finish it off.
“They do the work at training. The work that we do on Tuesday and Thursday is really starting to pay off.”
Kelly singled out halfback Jackson Sharpe, who made his run-on top-grade debut against Moree, as one of the Pirates’ best.
He also rated Biffin a standout performer on the day.
Kelly said Sharpe had been pushing for a spot in the starting side. “Through injury he got his start halfway through last week and he got a start today,” Kelly said. “He’ll be there next week.”
The coach added: “A special mention to Brendan Rixon, whose been up all night with the birth of his second child, a young daughter. He said limited sleep and a wife still in hospital, so he’s had a pretty big effort to get here.”
Moree’s tries were scored by hooker Will Carrigan, prop Maciu Latabua and winger Asesela Drotoni.
In other games, Scone downed Barraba 35-17, Narrabri crushed Quirindi 66-15, Gunnedah thumped Tamworth 50-5 and Walcha beat Inverell 34-10.