Central North Rugby: Barraba pip Gunnedah 39-38 in a thriller

Barraba/Gwydir snatched victory from Gunnedah’s grasp with a penalty after the bell, after the Red Devils had looked to have done likewise when Sanimo Navatu crashed over and Brad Swain converted to give the home side a two point lead with just over a minute remaining of their Central North clash on Saturday.

Try-time: Barraba/Gwydir outside centre Paul Edwards beats a diving Gunnedah defender to score the Rams' first try. Photo: Samantha Newsam

Try-time: Barraba/Gwydir outside centre Paul Edwards beats a diving Gunnedah defender to score the Rams' first try. Photo: Samantha Newsam

The Rams were unable to secure the kick-off but from the ensuing scrum were awarded a penalty, and Paul Edwards stepped up to kick them to a 39-38 victory.

“Usually we lose those ones,” Rams captain Will Robinson remarked.

He had no hesitation signalling for the posts having full confidence in Edwards.

It made for a dramatic finish to what was an entertaining and see-sawing tussle that neither side was really able to stamp their authority on with the lead changing hands seven times.

Beaten 14-12 by the Red Devils in the first round, a repeat looked on the cards when Gunnedah staged a typical late surge to eclipse a 12 point deficit. 

Matt Hannay reached out through the ruck to get them back within five points with just over five minutes to play before Navatu proved impossible to stop from 10m out, the powerful number eight taking several Rams defenders across the line with him.

“It was a pretty tough battle, we were lucky we started pretty well, which we usually don’t do,” Robinson said.

Sanimo Navatu scores to put Gunnedah ahead in the final moments

Playing with the freedom of a side with nothing on the line the Rams looked threatening from the opening whistle and drew first blood through Edwards’ boot.

The outside centre extended their lead a couple of minutes later, running a nice line off centre partner Tom Mellor and slicing through the Red Devils defence.

The Red Devils hit back though Navatu, and then hit the front when Matt Pardesi barreled his way over for the first of his two tries.

The Rams reclaimed the lead with just over seven minutes to play in the first half but it was short-lived, Red Devils’ second rower Matt Neilson crossing after half-back Dave Heyman had plucked a spectacular high intercept.

Heyman was ankle-tapped as he looked to step around Rams fullback Chris Sweeney but was able to find Neilson in support.

The Red Devils though made a mess of the kick-off and the Rams made them pay to take a 23-19 advantage into half-time.

The second half was more of the same, Pardesi putting the Red Devils ahead only for the Rams to reply a few minutes later through Luke Smith.

The Red Devils were reduced to 14 when Nick Lyons was yellow-carded, the Rams taking the penalty and then scoring a couple of minutes later to stretch out to a 12 point lead with just over 15 minutes on the clock.

After dropping out of finals contention with a couple of disappointing performances, Saturday’s win made it two in a row for the Rams and on what they showed left them to wonder what could have been.

“The last two games were probably how we should have been playing for the whole season,” Robinson said.

The forwards competed well and provided a good platform for the backs, who were “pretty sharp”.

That was reflected on the scoreboard with prop Steven Gadd the only forward to score.

Robinson thought they took their chances pretty well, and also highlighted their vision and discipline as the most pleasing aspects of Saturday’s effort.

In other games Matt McDonnell pursed a hat-trick and Matt Nott, Will Morley, Luke Tuckey and Mitch Wheaton doubles as Narrabri thrashed Quirindi 88-12.

Walcha meanwhile blitzed Scone 67-17 with Will Fletcher, Dom Bower and Pat Keen all finding the tryline twice, while a hat-trick to captain Conrad Starr helped Pirates account for Inverell 34-17.