Tamworth showdown for big guns

THEY’VE locked in a major semi-final battle but Pirates and Narrabri won’t be resting on their laurels with the minor premiership still up for grabs.

That will be decided today when the two clash at Ken Chillingworth Oval.

“That’s how we’ve pitched it,” Pirates’ coach Andrew Verrell said.

They trail the Blue Boars by a win but do have a bye up their sleeve.

Home advantage hasn’t meant a lot so far with the Blue Boars winning over in Tamworth and Pirates getting the points out at Narrabri.

They were besieged with injuries then and the win really underlined their premiership credentials.

Verrell said there were a lot they could draw from that.

“We won’t change much in the way we approach that game in a generic sense,” he said.

“We just like to play that quick, up tempo game.

“We haven’t got a big pack but we’ve got a mobile pack and we’ve got some guys that can pop up and do some damage like (Greg) White and (Jake) Douglas.”

It was on the back of that quick game that they got the win last time.

“I expect pretty much the same from Narrabri,” Verrell said.

“I think they’ll have a crack at us in the forwards.”

That is where he sees the Blue Boars’ strength.

“They’ll be looking to dominate.

“That allows them to give (Brenton) Cochrane a free hand,” he said.

They did a pretty good job of blunting their forwards, and therefore their attack, five weeks ago.

Verrell said any win will be built on defence. The attack will come from that.

It’s almost like the two sides have traded places.

“We’ve got five out,” co-coach Hunter Harley said.

The list includes Cochrane and centres Dave Boyle and Mitch Kelly, which has meant a bit of reshuffling in the backline.

“That’s certainly not going to be an excuse.

“I think we’ve got every chance of winning,” Harley said.

If they’re going to, it will have to start in the set piece.

“We’ve got to dominate in the set piece, be good over the ball, our breakdown’s got to be really effective and we’ve got to defend well,” he said.

“We’ve got to nullify Douglas, we’ve got to nullify (Andrew) Moodie and we’ve got to nullify Conrad (Starr).” 

A low tackle focus and good line speed will be keys to that.

They’ve also got to react better.

Pirates caught them off guard a couple of times with quick taps.

As they were then they are coming off a win over Moree and will be looking to replicate a lot of elements from that performance today.

“We’ve got to play like we did last week in the forwards,” he said.

That’s where the battle will be won.

“In round one we did and we won, last time we didn’t and we lost,” Harley said.

In the other Tier 1 game Inverell will be looking to post back-to-back wins when it hosts Moree.