Here’s how it all unfolded as Central North crowned their 2018 champions at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday. Stay tuned for more on the grand final action.
Pirates lifted the Heath Shield for the third consecutive year for the second time in the club’s history with a 24-8 win over 2017 grand final combatants Walcha.
Pirates’ scrum and their defence – areas of their game they had in recent times been maligned for – were the cornerstones of the triumph.
Rams winger Dom Bower opened the scoring mid-way through the first half but Pirates were swift with their reply. Prop Ben Goodman in his final game in Pirates colours then barged his way over with just over six minutes remaining on the clock in the first half to put the premiers in front.
They were never headed from there.
A penalty to Bower after the half-time buzzer closed the margin to two at half-time but a converted try early in the second half to Sam Collins saw Pirates push out nine clear.
As they really started to turn the screws with their scrum, they dominated territory and possession, only some brave defence from the Rams keeping them in the game.
There was though to be no stunning fightback this year, Bart Leach sealing the victory with a minute-and-a-half remaining.
Goodman was given the honour of taking the conversion – his first kick since the under-9s – and made no mistake.
There was no fairytale finish for the Cinderalla story of the competition - Gunnedah against a slick Inverell outfit, the Highlanders proving too strong and securing the first ever Carpet Court trophy.
The Highlanders ran in seven tries to run out 37-5 victors, Rhiannon Byers bagging a first half double in a player of the grand final performance.
She opened the scoring for the Highlanders a couple of minutes in and from there the Highlanders took control of the contest, Byers’ second effort for the half, in which she ran stepped around three defenders on a 50m burst gave them a 15-nil lead at half-time.
Coach Dale Beattie was a “very happy coach” afterwards, and with good reason.
Saturday was as well as they’ve played this season, he said.
“We had a game plan and it worked out to perfection,” Beattie said.
Narrabri won their first second grade premiership since 2011 with an emphatic win over arch-rivals and reigning premiers Moree.
Turning around a seven point loss in the major semi-final, the Blue Boars picked up where they left off against Pirates in the preliminary final to overpower the Bulls 15-5.
Fullback Michael Cain scored all 15 of the Blue Boars’ points as they avenged last year’s grand final loss.
“The guys deserved it. They’ve worked hard,” coach Craig Summers said.
Farrer delivered their best performance of the season to run away with the opening grand final of the day 47-22, and give half-back Lochie O’Keefe the perfect birthday present.
Tries in the couple of minutes either side of half-time proved the straw that broke Pirates back, Billy Porter driving through to give Farrer the lead 23-15 after a see-sawing first half with the lead changing hands five times.
They then crossed twice in the first five minutes of the second half to blow out to a 37-15 lead.
Playing with the wind behind them they were always going to be hard to run down from there.
“I think they saved their best till last,” coach Gus Comi said.