Pirates coach Anthony Barbara has described Phoebe McLoughlin as a "special talent" and no-one that saw Saturday's women's 7s preliminary final would argue with that as she inspired them to a come-from-behind 26-17 win over Narrabri.
McLoughlin was simply brilliant, scoring a hat-trick as Pirates won through to their first-ever grand final.
But it wasn't so much the try number that was impressive but the manor that she scored them. Two of her tries came from deep in Pirates half, McLoughlin slicing through the Blue Boars defence and racing away untouched.
"She's a freak," Barbara remarked.
"She's a true leader too, she leads those girls."
Unfortunately though she is set to miss the decider with the UNE Lions, of which she is a key member, kicking off their Uni 7s series campaign in Brisbane on the weekend.
In a double blow they also look like being without Miah O'Sullivan. She is part of the Bond squad.
"It's sad that we won't have them," Barbara said.
"Both of those girls have been a massive part of our club for the last three years."
He thought they might also be without Sophie Barr but she hasn't been named in the Lions squad for this weekend.
"I still think we've got the team that can beat Gunnedah," he said.
It's a matter of having the self-belief.
Barbara said Saturday was a "pleasing effort again".
They were under the pump a bit in the first half with the Blue Boars applying good defensive pressure early and forcing a knock-on, which they then scored from.
Pirates hit straight back, putting it through the hands and sending Barr away.
The kick-off though went pretty much straight to Blue Boars captain Daisy Robinson and she split the defence apart to run away 50m to score. April Smith then streaked away to make it 17-7.
Barbara said "it was a bit shaky" at that point but McLoughlin struck right on half-time to make the difference five at the break.
"I just said to the girls at half-time it will take the full seven minutes, be patient and if something happens don't panic," he said.
McLoughlin put them ahead early in the second half, and they were never headed from there.
"Once we scored that first try in the second half they started to panic a bit," Barbara said, adding that a bit of illdiscipline started creeping in.
He thought Erika Maslen was also really good for them.
"She was very good over the ball for us and her urgency to the ruck was good," he said.
Safia Arranz also had a big impact off the bench.
"She got limited time but when she was on she made the most of it," he said.
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