In a match that had an instant intensity to it, the Kootingal-Moonbi Roosters have claimed their first big scalp of the season in 2017 First Division premiers North Tamworth.
The Roosters took the lead when five-eighth Jordan Sharpe crossed in the third minute and clung onto that lead until the final siren to take the points 30-20.
Kooty coach Geoff Sharpe rode the game as hard as anyone in the final 20 minutes when the contest was on a knife’s edge with the Roosters leading 24-20.
“I'm a bit more of a Ricky Stuart compared to a Wayne Bennett,” Sharpe said after the full-time siren.
“I get a bit involved – and the boys have put in a fair bit of work.
“We had a real good first half. It was really important that we finished the job off.”
After Sharpe’s third minute try, Kootingal doubled their lead four minutes later through winger Jack Anderson on the back of a Sam Taylor – who looked like had the ball on a string at times – kick.
In the 10th minute, the Bears’ hit back through Shane Wadwell before a try from hooker Ryan Martin reinstated Kooty’s eight-point lead.
Bears captain-coach Scott Blanch then weaved his way through to get back within two points.
But, it was the Roosters who would finish the half off the better with tries to Taylor and then, just before half-time, Jake McLoughlin to see the score read 24-12.
North Tamworth wingers Heath Falkenmire and Jack Patterson went bang, bang to reduce the deficit to four points at the 48-minute mark.
The teams then traded mistakes as ball control became as important as ever.
The Roosters broke out of their shackles with about five minutes to go when Taylor initiated a raid.
“Sammy Taylor’s decision to run it on the left edge and finding Kyle Cochrane who gave it to Anthony Smith and then AJ Hall scores – it just kicks us out that little bit and gave us a bit of breathing space,” Sharpe said of the Roosters 10-point buffer with four minutes to go.
“I was pretty happy with the last couple of minutes. We came up with a couple mistakes but still defended our line.”
North Tamworth captain-coach Scott Blanch thought the Roosters started better than his side.
“They got the jump on us,” Blanch said.
“Started well, completed their sets and got to their kick. I think we still have a lot of improvement in us. Thought our second half was much better. Got back to playing footy, good simple footy and ripping in.
“We did get back close but they had a good little play down the blind [Hall’s try].”
He also thought the game was a good advertisement for the sport.
“Great to come out here and play a good, clean and fair game,” Blanch said.
“That was probably good for us, too. That’s given us good motivation and, obviously, a good hard game of footy before we play Narrabri and Gunnedah the next two weeks.”
Norths host Narrabri at Jack Woolaston Oval next Sunday.
The Blues warmed up for that grand final replay by beating Bendemeer 80-14 at Collins Park, Narrabri.
Blues hooker Jacob Nichols crossed for four of the 14 tries while halfback Josh Trindall also scored twice on top of kicking 12 goals for a 32-point haul.
Brenton Cochrane might not have scored any tries but he polled the three points in the North West Farm Machinery AGCO Best and Fairest Award. Skipper and lock, Lachlan Cameron, snared the two points and Trindall the one.