Sanimo Navatu was like a rampaging bull as he inspired Gunnedah to a second straight win at Quirindi on Saturday.
The barnstorming number eight carried the Red Devils to a 26-11 lead at half-time with a first half double. From there they powered their way to a 48-25 victory, Navatu fittingly putting the exclamation point on the win with his third try of the game.
The Red Devils' best and fairest their first three games, coach Dan Martin remarked that Navatu is playing as well as he has seen him.
"I haven't seen him play this level of football in our zone," he said.
"He's fit, he rarely misses a training session, he's actually doing more boxing work off the field."
There would be little argument that he was the difference against Pirates, and again on Saturday he was the one that really got the Red Devils going after a bit of a wobble early.
They had to absorb a lot pressure in the first 20 minutes, much of that their own doing with illdiscipline enabling the Lions to camp in their half.
Ben Grant kicked the home side to a 3-nil lead just a couple of minutes in but the Red Devils hit back almost immediately. After forcing a fumble from the kick-off, winger Oscar Hunt ran a nice line to burst through.
Grant closed the gap before Jake Murray barged his way over after some patient build-up to put the Lions back in front.
After finally getting a bit of territory and turning the screws through their scrum, Navatu picked up the ball from the back of the scrum and charged his way to the line to reclaim the lead for the Red Devils.
It generally took two or three defenders to stop him, or at least slow him down, and when he scored off a quick tap after a brilliant breakout from the Red Devils from within their half the momentum had well and truly turned in the visitors favour.
Such a potent force for them, Martin spoke about trying not to be so reliant on Navatu.
"He's just a natural leader on the field so he wants to take the ball forward, and that's what his job is, but we're also looking at things where we can start moving the ball away from Nemo too to actually give us more dimensions in our forward pack," he said.
He said there is still "a hell of a lot for us to work on" but was "very pleased" with the forward dominance and the way they were able to grind it out in the first half.
"The boys had to actually stick with what the game plan was early on," he said.
"Quirindi really dug in well and played a good first half of football so we really had to really wear them down."
He conceded he was a bit worried that after putting so much into last week they'd be a bit flat, but they started well - the illdiscipline aside.
It was as Martin put it "very simple stuff" and just "piggy-backed them down the park and gave them some easy opportunities which they took".
The positive from that was that they were able to get on top of that late in the first half.
Along with Navatu, Martin also gave credit to Ray Spradbrow, who has stepped up from juniors last year.
"He's a very light forward but he follows up, backs up, runs the ball hard, and gets around the park very well, and for a young fella he's showing a maturity beyond his years out there," he said.
"I really think he's one of the finds for us this year."
Lions coach Col McKenzie succinctly put it that the Red Devils were "too big and too good".
"Our boys played really well. They were a bit down on themselves afterwards but they met a better side," he said.
"Their forwards were very good."
He felt like they were still in it at half-time but said the trouble was the Red Devils were starting to wear them down, especially in the scrum. They were after picking up a couple of injuries forced to go to uncontested scrums in the second half.
McKenzie conceded they probably fell into the trap of trying to play the same style of game as the Red Devils, which didn't work. It didn't help that they struggled to get quality ball from the set pieces.
He thought Tom Keortz was good for them at half-back.
"He played well behind the forwards and scored a nice try from the back of the scrum," he said.
Fullback Ben Grant and captain Tom Grant also had good games.