Two 50m efforts in the space of a couple of minutes exemplified a scintillating second half from Gunnedah as they trounced Quirindi at Gunnedah Rugby Park on Saturday.
Hooker Matt Hannay, skipper Jamie Mitchell and replacement winger Aisea Raitala all pursed doubles in the 78-7 victory which lifted the Red Devils up to third.
The Lions typically put up a fight and had the Red Devils under pressure at times in the first half, but the home side continually snuffed out their advances, Hannay crossing for his first in the shades of half-time, to take a 28-7 lead into the break.
The game opened up for the Red Devils in the second half, Mitchell starting the onslaught just over a minute in.
From the kick-off Oscar Hunt produced a scithing run back into the traffic and through the heart of the Quirindi defence to set up Nick Lyons.
From there the Lions barely had time to catch their breath as the Red Devils dominated possession and territory and skipped away to a 59-7 lead with 20 minutes to play. There were a few moments of reprieve, but as was the case in the first half – aside from Ben Grant’s early effort – their endeavours came to nothing either through good defence from the Red Devils, good pressure at the ruck, or a turnover.
The Red Devils had no such issue and iced the win with two brilliant long-range tries.
The first was an almost length of the field effort, fullback Brad Swain split the Lions defence open before linking up with Jamie Mitchell. He surged another 20/30m swatting away a couple of attempted tackles before turning the ball inside to Raitala, who had earlier scored his first touch.
Minutes later Kih McDonald burst down the left hand side and found Swain back on the inside.
The backs though wouldn’t have been able to flourish without the work of the forwards as Mitchell acknowledged.
“The forwards did their job running forward and got us going forward,” he said.
And with front foot ball the pace and size of the Red Devils backs exposed the young Lions backline.
Mitchell struggled to pick any standouts, describing it as an allround good team effort.
“It was very good. We managed to put together some good phase play and scored some good tries,” he said.
The Lions’ to their credit stuck it to them in the first half, he said, and put on some good plays.
He felt they were too a bit guilty of pushing passes and forcing the play a bit.
“We weren’t quite going forward before we were passing wide,” Mitchell said.
“A little adjustment we made in the second half it helped.”
He was most impressed with their continuous phases.
They scored some nice tries off that.
The lineout was also strong. After having some issues against Pirates there last week they either spoiled or pinched quite a few of the Lions’ throws. The scrum too put the Lions under a lot of pressure.
The breakdown was another strong area for the home side.
“We turned quite a few over,” Mitchell said.
“We’ve concentrated on making sure we’re doing the right thing and not being too messy at the ruck.”
For the Lions it was an all too familiar story.
They were competitive in the first half but faded in the second half.
“We’re slowly getting better,” coach Will Pearce said.
“The first three games up to Moree we competed for the first 20-30 minutes.”
“The last couple of games we’ve competed the whole first half then dropped off our level.”
A lot of that he felt, has to do with having a young playing group, who are still finding their feet in senior football.
Grant is a prime example. The 17-year old was making his first grade debut on Saturday.
He was though one of the Lions’ best, picking up the players’ player.