Gunnedah produced one of their best 40 minutes of football for several seasons at Gunnedah on Sunday to bedevil Narrabri and set up a preliminary final match-up with Walcha next Saturday.
It was All Black-esque from the Red Devils as they blew the Blue Boars away in the first half and laid the foundation for a 43-24 victory.
The comment was made that it was the best half of football the Red Devils have played in about 10 years, and it was hard to argue with that with the scoreboard reading 33-nil at half-time.
Few could have foreseen what transpired as the Red Devils completely dominated.
The cornerstone was the scrum, which was a real weapon for them both as a defensive mechanism and an attacking platform.
“That scrum gave us so much ball, and it’s tiring for the opposition when your scrum is going backwards,” Red Devils coach Jason Waerea.
It got to the point where from penalties they were electing to go for the scrum.
Their first try was somewhat fortuitous with inside centre Adam Mooney reading the play perfectly and plucking the intercept before offloading to winger Nacaniele Tavaga, who had too much power for the Blue Boars defence.
The Blue Boars had a penalty attempt not long after from what would prove to be a rare foray into their territory, but were unsuccessful.
From there it was all the Red Devils.
Matt Pardesi extended their lead just over 10 minutes in after the Gunnedah scrum had destroyed the Blue Boars’. Five minutes later second rower Matt Roseby charged through the Blue Boars midfield defence and raced away to score.
When number eight Sanimo Navatu cut back on the inside and crashed over after another scrum penalty, the Red Devils were well on their way to victory.
Skipper Jamie Mitchell put the exclamation point on a brilliant first half, when he brushed off the the Blue Boars defence from about 25m out.
“Our little mantra was really strong start, strong communication and strong defence,” Waerea said, giving a big tick on all three counts.
After what was an almost perfect first half, his main message to them at half-time was to just continue on.
They knew the Blue Boars had it in them to come back, and early on in the second half the running was with the visitors, Jack Sharp scoring after a weaving run from outside centre Jacob Booby.
Replacement winger Michael Cain bagged their second about 10 minutes later, but half-back Zack Harris snuffed out any thoughts of a Blue Boars comeback.
A really good team performance, one of the most pleasing things from Waerea’s perspective was the composure they showed.
“The guys did well to stay composed,” he said.
“It would have been easy to throw the ball around but they set it up.”
The Blue Boars were a shadow of the side that knocked off arch rivals Moree last week.
“We didn’t defend well and it showed,” coach Dylan Duncan said.
They didn’t have the same urgency and didn’t realign quick enough and the Red Devils made them pay.
That was compounded by their problems at scrum-time.
“It’s been our achilles heel all year,” Duncan said.
“Their scrum was too good and kept the pressure on us all day.”
In attack too it “just didn’t flow”.
“We just weren’t gelled together from the start and dropped balls we shouldn’t have dropped,” he said.
Still they will take a lot out of getting as far as they did.
“We’ve taken a lot of young players a long way,” Duncan said.
“It’s a young side and getting into the finals and playing finals footy can only be good for them.”
Sharp was outstanding for them.
Earlier Inverell defeated Pirates 37-12 in second grade.