The Macintyre Warriors beat the Narwan Eels 26-22 in the Group 19 first-grade grand final at Boggabilla – and it was all due to their defence.
It’s an intro not many would have expected when the Warriors took on Narwan Eels on Saturday.
Both teams are renowned for their attack, but the Warriors especially have built a benchmark presence on their ability to score from anywhere.
But for most of the second half they were camped on their own line turning back one Narwan raid after another.
It was in stark contrast to the first half when the Warriors threatened to blow open the grand final racing to a 22-4 lead with only minutes left to the half-time hooter.
But this Narwan team is made of sterner stuff and they’ve proved in two titanic final encounters that their attacking flair can match the Macintyre boys.
They were aided by the ill-discipline which threatened to derail the Warriors in the first semi-final.
In the dying moments of an enthralling first half the Warriors were marched down the field for repeated infringements until Narwan had them boxed in on their own line.
Slowing down the play one too many times Buddy Brown was given 10 minutes and on the next play Narwan strolled through a defence stretched to its limits.
It was 22-10, and Narwan was back.
And with the Warriors one man down after halftime the game was once more, wide open.
And what a half it was.
It was a great day at Boggabilla Sports Ground.
They came from north, south, east and west for this showcase of rugby league.
The Boggbilla field was packed to the rafters, if it had rafters.
But people and cars poured into the ground which often only has cockatoos and passing cattle on the nearby stock route as daily spectators and which has silos and the Boggabilla Town and Country Club as a backdrop.
A thousand, two thousand league lovers? More? We’ll have to wait for the official gate figures but there was no room for cockatoos.
And it was a showcase from the ladies league final to the final hooter.
The day only marred by an ugly brawl after the under 18s match between Inverell and arch-rivals Tingha.
It threatened to detract from a magnificent day of rugby league but it was counter-balanced and consumed by something bigger: fantastic games of football played with fire and passion and conducted with the grace by champion teams. No grand final biffo here although it threatened on occasion.
The Macintyre Warriors went down in the reserve grade grand final to the Moree Boomerangs.
It was a match which kept the huge crowd pressuring the sidelines right to the end.
The Warriors had appeared to break a 70 minute deadlock when the one-and-only Rick McGrady put in a booming, laser-directed 40-20 kick.
And as good as that was, it was nothing to his heroics a few minutes later when he finished off the set by carrying most of the Boomerang team over the line and still finding a way to bang the ball down.
It should have been the winning moment.
But the Rangs kept fighting and they were able to drive their way back into the Warriors’ 25, but again some top defence saw the Warriors hold firm.
They charged out and hit the 50m line and were looking more than dangerous until a knock-on changed the fortunes of both sides.
It was then left up to Man of the Match Leslie Fuller to produce that little bit of magic that determines grand final victories.
He converted his own try virtually as the siren sounded.
The final score in an engrossing match, 26-22.