Pirates tuned up for their Central North title defence with a good trial win over Sydney Subbies side Balmain at Scully Park on Saturday.
The hit-out against the Division 1 outfit was just what Pirates coach Mat Kelly was after for his side and has them in good shape for season kick-off on April 22.
“I couldn’t be happier. It was exactly what the boys needed,” Kelly said.
“There were some very good signs.”
Pirates seconds and women’s 7’s also tackled the Sydneysiders, the latter winning their first game in Pirates colours, on what was an emotional day for the club following the sudden and tragic passing of Under 17s captain Jack Cutcliffe on Thursday night.
Out of respect for him they retired the number six jersey he proudly wore for the day.
The players also wore black arm bands and observed a minutes silence before the first grade game.
The premiers don’t appear to have lost anything, producing some spectacular rugby against what was some of the toughest opposition they have faced.
“We really controlled the speed of the game,” Kelly said.
“And we defended really well. They had some quality players there and had a lot of possession but we still ended up getting over the top.”
It was a particularly good test for the forwards.
“They (Balmain) had a really good scrum,” Kelly said.
That came as no surprise given Balmain’s coaching pedigree. Former Waratahs and Wallabies prop Benn Robinson is their mentor.
Kelly said the Sydney club approached them about having a game, and is hoping it becomes an annual trial.
“Benn wanted to give them a County experience,” he said.
The 72 Test and 151 Super Rugby veteran didn’t pull on the boots, but did have the crowd excited at one stage as he got strapped up. It turned out though only to be for an injury.
Kelly praised the efforts of his front row.
With Tim Collins going down with a hamstring strain, his counterparts had to play out the 80 minutes.
Birthday boy Nick McCrohan was another to impress.
“He was brilliant playing a lot of positions,” Kelly said.
“Colby LaChiusa was fantastic on the right wing as was Damian Reti at outside centre.”
A mid-season inclusion last year, Reti was unbelievable he said, and formed an ominous centre pairing with former Canberra Raider Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.
“He’s (Learoyd-Lahrs) hopeful of playing a few games,” Kelly said.
Where he best fits he’s not quite sure yet.
Kelly hasn’t been left with many holes to fill.
One he has is half-back following Amos Ioasa’s switch back to league.
James Trappel trailed there on Saturday and was good, he said.
The game finalised their preparations and followed a Plate win at the recent Armidale 7s and a three-way trial against Lake Macquarie and the Cooks Hill Brown Snakes.
“We’ll get back to training and finish it off for our first game on the 22nd against Scone,” Kelly said.