GUNNEDAH announced its Central North Rugby premiership intentions on Saturday, blowing Moree away in the first half to beat the premiers 33-21.
Pirates went to the top of the leader board, dominating Inverell in the second half to turn a 14-point lead into a 40-point hiding.
The Red Devils put on three first-half tries against the premiers and then held on as the Bulls came back.
Moree was stunned by the home side which jumped to a 20-nil halftime lead with two tries from second-rower Josh Howarth.
The Bulls pulled them back to 26-21 in a nailbiter before hooker Matt Hannay crashed over with three minutes to go.
Gunnedah co-coach Tim Walsh said it was the best forty minutes of football they have played all year.
“We were pretty good,” Walsh said.
“It shows we can compete with the top three.”
Moree was coming home strongly with the Gunnedah defence only just holding on.
“We defended the lead a bit instead of continuing to attack them,” Walsh said.
Gunnedah has only lost at home once this year, and that was to Moree in the first round.
In Tamworth, two Pirates celebrated milestones with tries in the 59-19 win against an under-performing Inverell.
Jake Douglas’s 100th game celebration was cut short when he came off with a kinked neck after crossing under the posts.
Black Pollock crossed in the second half to celebrate his fiftieth appearance as the Pirates pulled away to take top spot in tier 1.
Pollock was one of the veterans in a young pack after five regulars were out with injuries.
Reserve grade flanker Lachlan Cassidy had a very strong game as did usual suspect Josh Stewart.
Andrew Moodie showed his experience, expertly steering the side to the victory with a few flashes of individual brilliance and a great kicking game.
Pirates coach Andrew Verrell said it was a good win coming off a tough game against Narrabri last week.
Two tries in the shadows of halftime was where Inverell lost touch in the game and never made it back.
Coach Tim Bremner said the side looked about half the side that got within seven points of Moree last week.
“There was just no enthusiasm,” Bremner said.
“We have been playing really well but were pretty poor from one to 15 today.”
Chad Makim and Tala Vea were the Highlanders’ best, along with centre Siaki Maea until he was sent off for a second yellow card at the end of the match.
Pirates are now the only undefeated side in the top tier and face giantkillers Gunnedah next week.
Inverell will host Narrabri while the premiers get a week off to reflect on their loss.