Conrad Starr took his season try tally against Inverell to seven on Saturday as Pirates spoiled the Highlanders triumphant 2008 sides’ 10th anniversary reunion.
The Dave Kearsey-led side beat Pirates in an epic decider 24-20 to claim only the club’s second-ever first grade premiership.
Saturday was a different story with Pirates converting a 17-5 half-time lead into what coach Mat Kelly termed an “ugly” 34-17 win.
“We could have been better and a bit more clinical,” Kelly said.
“We pushed the pass probably too much. We would have liked to have built more pressure.”
Playing at home for the final time this season, Kelly had expected the Highlanders to be up for a big game and they were good, he said.
So too was Starr.
The evergreen number eight crossed for a hat-trick to follow up four tries in the first round in what was his 150th club game for Pirates.
Kelly said he could have scored more too, getting held up at least once.
Two of his tries came off mauls, which was one of the strongest facets of the premiers’ game.
“The maul was very good”, Kelly said.
The set piece was also good, although they still do have “some way to go” especially in defence.
It had been the main focus during the week but their defensive decisions weren’t as good as he would have hoped.
”We were better than we have been, but we still know this group of players can be better,” Kelly said.
“Just our enthusiasm. That’s our biggest thing that we’ve got to work on.
“Leading into these big games it shouldn’t be an issue but the last couple of round games it has been.”
Sam Collins picked up the three points and was “great” for them at seven.
In his first start since the game against the Highlanders in the first round, Doug Biffin also had a strong game and showed his versatility. After running on at inside centre, he moved into loosehead prop when Barton Leach was yellow-carded and earned his side a tighthead.
Brendan Rixon also made a welcome return off the bench, leaving Kelly with a few decisions to make ahead of what is a “massive game” against Barraba/Gwydir on Saturday.
Win that and they will be minor premiers and host the major semi-final.
“The boys are keen to get to Bingara, none of the boys have ever played at Bingara before,” he said.
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