Narrabri coach Craig Summers said leading into Saturday’s second grade grand final if the Blue Boars could play like they did in the first 30 minutes of the major semi-final but for “60 or 70” minutes he was certain they could “give it a shake”.
The Blue Boars did, to capture their first second grade premiership since 2011.
Turning around a seven point loss in the major semi, the Blue Boars picked up where they left off against Pirates in the preliminary final to overpower arch-rivals Moree 15-5 and avenge last year’s grand final loss.
“The guys deserved it. They’ve worked hard,” coach Craig Summers said.
It was his first premiership as a coach, and a poignant one for both him personally after losing his mother recently, and the players following the tragic passing of team-mate Wade Maloney in the week leading up to the preliminary final.
Summers said they spoke about Maloney just before they ran on.
“His father sent me a text from the states and said Wade loved the Blue Boars, go out and rip in,” he said.
They went out and did just that, Michael Cain scoring to put them ahead 10 minutes in. The fullback then kicked a penalty towards the end of the half for an 8-nil lead at half-time.
After watching them blow a 10-point lead in the major semi-final, Summers conceded he wasn’t “overly confident” at the break.
“I knew there was a lot of work still to be done,” he said.
His message to them was to “hold the ball in hand and hold it for as long as we can”.
They had the majority of the territory and possession in the early part of the second half but couldn’t crack the staunch Bulls defence.
Eventually though the pressure told with Cain crawling through the ruck defence, and his way to the line to make it 15-nil with 21 minutes to go.
The Bulls made a late charge but the Blue Boars defence was equally as resolute holding them out until after the bell.
Summers was quick to point to defence as where they won it.
Like they did against Pirates they really got up in the Bulls’ faces and forced them to make mistakes.
“I think we took a lot out of last week. We’ve got a lot of young blokes and they took a lot of belief out of it,” he said.
He had thought heading in that their youth could be an advantage for them, and he felt it worked to their favour on Saturday.
“They are an older, bigger pack,” he said.
“We knew if we could get through that first initial grind we could wear them down.”
Mitch Creighton was outstanding at number eight and was named the player of the grand final.
Linton Grumley was also very good at seven while Cain was solid at the back.
The Bulls were their own worst enemies, particularly in the first half, constantly turning over possession.
“When we had our opportunities we didn’t capitalise,” a disappointed Bulls coach Sylvester Joseph said.
He felt they didn’t “get the rub of the green” either as far as penalties.
Along with the turnovers, they stifled their momentum.
“We couldn’t build any pressure,” he said.
“We’d get up to about six phases and then there’d be a penalty.”
He thought they did well to hold the Blue Boars to eight points in the first half, and felt like they were right in it.
Cain’s second try was a big blow.
As Josephs’ said you can’t play catch-up football in grand finals, and as the game wore in desperation they forced things a few times.
He though couldn’t fault the effort in hot conditions.
“The boys really worked hard,” he said.
No-one embodied that more than captain Sam Copeman.
The five-eighth was out on his feet but just kept getting up and making tackles.
Joseph thought Will Clark did well filling in at outside centre for Alex Corlis, while Will Burey at hooker had a terrific game.
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