Gunnedah’s victory in Saturday’s Central North women’s 7s elimination final was a momentous one on a couple of fronts.
The zone’s first-ever women’s 7s final, the Red Devils bedevilled the Blue Boars 20-7 to be a win away from a grand final appearance they couldn’t have dreamed of at the start of the season.
“After our first game at the beginning of the year this is not a position we thought we’d be in,” captain Sarah Stewart said.
“But we’ve worked hard to get here and it’s good that we’re getting the rewards for that hard work.”
The Blue Boars struck first, April Smith scoring inside the first couple of minutes.
But the Red Devils hit back with a vengeance scoring four unanswered tries.
“I think everyone was a bit nervous,” Stewart said.
“We made a few mistakes in the first couple of minutes but after that we settled down and played our own game.”
Fullback Bec Smyth got them on the board with a brilliant individual effort.
After sweeping up a kick through from the Blue Boars about 40m out from the Red Devils line, the former gymnast weaved her way around three defenders.
Kirsty McArthur then put the Red Devils ahead in the final seconds before half-time after a steal at the breakdown from Issy Hunt.
Not that the Red Devils’ players were aware they were up.
“We don’t look at the scoreboard during the game,” Stewart said.
The message at the break was simple.
“We just said, ‘we’ve worked hard and turned this around and we’re playing better as a team let’s just keep it up. We’re kicking off and then let’s get that ball back’,” she said.
Fiona Laurie gassed the Blue Boars defence outwide to extend the Red Devils’ lead not long into the second half.
Lana Bottrell then sealed it for them after another turnover at the breakdown, although those last couple of minutes seemed to stretch on for an age, Stewart said.
The pressure they applied at the breakdown was one of the features of the Red Devils’ performance.
Conscious of the Blue Boars’ skill and the speed, they really fought hard when they didn’t have the ball.
“We lifted and tried to get the ball back in our possession,” Stewart said.
The victory was also a credit to their team-work.
“The biggest thing for our team is the support we have for each other. Anyone makes a break we’re there to back it up,” she said.
They will now face either Inverell or Pirates in the preliminary final.
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