It is the cornerstone of every good side and Moree coach Peter Copeman and his Walcha counterpart Barry Hoy were unanimous about what got the Bulls the points in their clash at Walcha on Saturday – their defence.
And no-one summed up the Bulls’ desperation better than winger Mitchell Adams.
The 18-year old held up Walcha winger Richard Young twice, and saved another try with a sliding effort as the Bulls upset last years grand finalists 32-30.
Arguably their biggest win of the season, Copeman said it has really given the players a lift.
“It’s a big win in the context of the season,” he said.
Not only being away from home but against one of the sides they expect to be challenging for finals.
He said it was a typical Moree-Walcha game - “hard and tough” and as the scoreline suggests not over until the final whistle.
The Bulls jumped away to an early lead courtesy of a Josh Walker intercept and were up 14-nil at one stage.
“[But] Walcha as they do came back,” Copeman said.
The lead changed hands several times before Jordan Cosh steamed onto a 30m cut-out from five-eighth Jamie Sampson that hit him on the chest, and scored, to put the Bulls ahead by two with around four minutes to play.
The Rams pressed hard for a match-winner, but the Bulls’ defence for the second week in a row was unyielding in those final minutes.
“They were just getting off the line quickly,” Copeman said, adding that they seemed to be able to shut Rams five-eighth Simon Newton and his dangerous cohorts in the backline down pretty well.
“Jordy (Cosh) and Ben Williams kept their centres pretty quiet.”
Happy to get the points against Barraba last week, Copeman felt they didn’t play that well.
Saturday was a marked improvement.
“We seemed to finish things off whereas against Barraba we did all the hard yards and them seemed to bomb it,” he said.
Down their three regular front rowers, he thought they did pretty well in the scrum, and particularly noted the efforts of hooker Jack Maunder and prop Hayden Wiblen.
Hoy was reasonably happy with how the Rams played.
“They (Bulls) defended really well. That was the difference,” he said.
“We probably put 10 or a dozen phases together there at times and they made us turn the ball over.”
Not taking anything away from the Bulls defence, he thought they were a bit too one-out at times.
“It was probably a bit obvious who was getting the ball,” he said.
On balance he felt they had the better of the play.
“We were probably dominant. Our scrum was dominant and in the lineout we turned over a bit of their lineout ball,” Hoy said.
“[But] We couldn’t capitalise on the extra ball we had.”
The backrow worked hard as the points reflected with Will Fletcher earning the three and Sandy Cameron the one. Prop Mike Whitton picked up the two and was the players’ player.
A hat-trick to Jydon Hill meanwhile sparked Narrabri to a 54-20 win over Barraba, while Pirates shook off Scone with a strong second half.
There was only a try in it at half-time, but as they have so often done the premiers put the foot down in the second half to run away with it 41-5.
Breakaway Tim Collins and outside centre Llewyn Rapana both crossed for doubles in what was a bit of a scrappy performance.
“It wasn’t that pretty,” Pirates coach Mat Kelly said.
“We just couldn’t get into the groove. There were lots of penalties and it was very stop-start.”
Guilty of “throwing passes that didn’t need to be thrown” in the first half the big difference in the second half was they were able to “put some phases together with some decent ball”.
Doug Biffin, Jackson Sharpe and Ben Goodman were Pirates’ best.