"That was not a performance the Pirates tolerated."
Tamworth Pirates coach Mick Squires didn't mince words after today's game against the Gunnedah Red Devils.
But he was not referring to today's performance. In fact, he was very pleased with Pirates' exhibition, as they outplayed Gunnedah en route to a 41-26 win.
What Squires found intolerable was their match the week prior - a 51-19 loss to Narrabri.
It was, he said, the shame from that defeat that drove Tamworth to its first win over Gunnedah today in two years.
"Embarrassment," was Squires' succinct reply when asked what motivated Pirates.
"They got back to training this week, they worked hard. Today wasn't about winning, it was about putting some pride and accountability back in."
The first half was a battle of attrition as Tamworth scrapped for a 24-12 lead. But in the second, they came out firing with a try in the first three minutes.
Another followed 15 minutes later to give Pirates a nigh-unassailable lead of 38-12, but Gunnedah showed why it has been the top side all year with two late tries.
"There's a reason they're leading the competition," Squires said.
"They've been the best team all year, there's no doubt about that."
Sam Collett's performance at fullback earned him wholehearted praise from Squires, who said he was "definitely the best player on field".
Tamworth captain Conrad Star was also singled out for his leadership, while the forward pack performed their roles impeccably, Squires added.
With the win, Pirates also took back the Kookaburra Cup.
The result was a benchmark for Tamworth but, more importantly, gave the squad confidence going in to the all-important final rounds of the competition.
"At the end of the day, we performed and we haven't always done that against Gunnedah," Squires said.
"The last few times we've played them, we played some really bad footy. Today we played well, but they're still the team to beat.
"We know we're going to play them later in the year at their home ground, and I think that's why winning today was important."
A massive home crowd barracked vociferously for Pirates, which turned out to support both the team and the club's Ladies Day celebrations.
"The boys love playing in front of our home crowd," Squires said.
"Ladies Day and Old Boys Day are both pretty special, and this year we've managed to put a good performance in for both of them."
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