Central North Rugby: Pirates power to third straight premiership

Triumphant: Pirates celebrate a third straight first grade premiership after beating Walcha 24-8 on Saturday. Photo: Peter Hardin
Triumphant: Pirates celebrate a third straight first grade premiership after beating Walcha 24-8 on Saturday. Photo: Peter Hardin

Pirates prop Ben Goodman couldn’t have hoped for anything more for his last game in a Pirates jersey – a try, a conversion and most importantly another premiership.

That the Pirates scrum was so dominant was the cherry on top as they made it seven titles in 10 years with a 24-8 win over Walcha.

Goodman has played in all seven and is one of three of Saturday’s side that were involved in the first in 2009.

Brendan Rixon and Doug Biffin were also part of the side that defeated Narrabri 33-13 to secure the club their second premiership.

That it was his last made Saturday that bit more special for Goodman.

“It was one of the best. It was fantastic to get the result,” he said.

“It was a real tough game.

“Probably the score didn’t reflect it but it could have gone either way at a few stages but we hung in there and we’re pretty happy.”

The 31-year old, who played his 150th first grade game earlier in the season, said Saturday was it for him.

Ben Goodman reflects on Saturday's win

“This is the end of it. I’ve had a good go at it,” he said.

He didn’t though completely rule out a comeback, joking that he told his team-mates he’d come back if he’s allowed to be a goalkicker.

With the game safe, he was given the honour of taking the final conversion.

It was the first kick he’s taken since he reckoned about the under-9s but he nailed it.

“It felt pretty good,” Goodman said.

As did dismantling the Rams’ scrum, the scrum as it did in last year’s decider proving a real weapon.

“We really wanted to work on that, put them away early in the scrum and I think we did that pretty well,” he said.

They set the tone the first scrum on their feed – winning a penalty, and their dominance got to the point where they were opting for scrums on penalties.

They were equally as destructive on the Rams’ feed either forcing a turnover or pushing them backwards.

“I appreciate everyone bagging out our scrum this year it’s really put the fire in the bellies,” Pirates coach Mat Kelly said.

“They’ve put in the work and it means a lot that today that they can show what a great scrum they are and a great forward pack and the backs get to play some decent footy off the back of that.”

As much as the players hated him doing it, Kelly said they had kept a few tricks up their sleeves for Saturday.

The Rams showed how dangerous they can be in the opening couple of minutes, swinging the ball wide from a scrum and creating an overlap but Dom Bower couldn’t take the pass.

They were not long after reduced to 14 when Simon Newton was sin-binned for a dangerous charge (no arms).

Pirates winger Sam Bowden is driven into touch by Walcha centre Ed Cordingley as Pirates threaten to break out of their half. Photo: Peter Hardin

Pirates winger Sam Bowden is driven into touch by Walcha centre Ed Cordingley as Pirates threaten to break out of their half. Photo: Peter Hardin

Fortunately for the Rams there was no damage done. 

If anything they had the better of the territory, and looked like scoring a couple of times but through a combination of dropped balls at the wrong time and the Pirates defence they couldn’t make anything of it.

Pirates’ defence was along with the scrum the cornerstone of the win.

“Our whole focus was defence and we really did just focus on that,” Kelly said.

“Absolutely everything stems off that.” 

They had to absorb a lot of pressure in the opening 20 minutes but just kept turning up for each other and repelling them.

Eventually the pressure told, Newton throwing a beautiful two-man cut-out to hit Bower on the fly and the winger did the rest.

But the Rams invited Pirates straight back in knocking-on the kick-off, and after earning a penalty from the scrum Pirates levelled the scores through captain Conrad Starr.

Conrad Starr scores Pirates' first try

Goodman then shouldered off the Walcha defence and barged his way over to give Pirates the lead 10-8 at the break.

Playing into the wind in the first half, Kelly was pretty happy.

“I thought at half-time the scoreline favoured us. I thought that wind could have been a lot more points,” he said.

Walcha had the first chance of the second half with centre Ed Cordingley breaking through but he couldn’t link up with his support, and as Pirates really started to turn the screws at scrum-time Sam Collins scored to stretch their lead beyond a converted try.

Pirates dominated territory and possession from there.

Last year fresh in his mind, Kelly “was riding it” until Bart Leach crossed with a minute-and-a-half remaining.

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