Jeremy Hallam was a late hero for Inverell as they hung on for a 15-12 win over Gunnedah on Saturday.
With the Highlanders clinging to a three point lead and the Red Devils only 5m out from their line with only seconds remaining, Hallam came up with a crucial turnover.
It summed up what co-coach Collis Berryman described as a gritty win.
“It was a really gritty and determined effort, which was wonderful to see,” he said.
“The last 10 minutes Gunnedah were camped in our 22. They had probably 10 scrums in our 22 but we just defended and defended and turned the ball over.”
The defensive effort was one of the most pleasing aspects of their performance.
“It’s something we’ve been working on the last two weeks,” Berryman said.
“It’s something that has been letting us down.”
Only the Highlanders third win for the season, Berryman said there was a feeling going into the game of “no more excuses”. It was time to show their potential.
“We started off really well. The first 15-20 minutes we played to the game plan,” he said.
He said they probably didn’t capitalise enough on having the wind behind them in the first half, but they went into the break ahead 12-5.
The first time all season they have led at half-time it was fortunate with the second half “tough going”.
Second rower George Murray topped the points and picked up the players player.
“He was very active and good at the breakdown,” Berryman said.
Number eight Trent Hoscher was also “excellent again”, the skipper leading from the front in what as a huge effort from the Highlanders pack.
“Everyone was happy that we won yesterday but the forwards you could tell they were spent,” Berryman said.
It was a torrid battle up front, the Red Devils dominating the scrum.
That made the loss that bit tougher to swallow for Red Devils coach Jason Waerea, although he couldn’t fault their effort.
“We had a lot of changes but we had a go,” he said.
He had expected Saturday to be tough given the amount, and calibre, of players they were missing.
“They (Inverell) were pretty good,” he said.
“They were good at maintaining and keeping the ball. Unfortunately we weren’t as good at maintaining the ball.”
“We made a lot of mistakes.”
He was rueing their inability to finish.
“We had to piece a backline together and that showed. We couldn’t finish anything,” he said.
“We had a lot of opportunities where we made good clean breaks but we knocked on or they made a good clean pilfer.”
They probably could have kicked to draw, having a couple of penalty opportunities late, but needed the win.
As it is the loss is a big blow to their finals chances with all bar Narrabri of the sides ahead of them to play.
Brown brothers Jeremy and Dan were again among the points sharing the two behind Russell Johnston, while Dave Heyman picked up the one.
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