OLD Bar booked a berth in Sunday's Group Three Rugby League preliminary final with a stunning 40-18 eclipse of Port Macquarie in the minor semi played at the Jack Neal Oval, Taree.
The Pirates piled on 24 points in the last 25 minutes of the game to finish all over the disappointing Sharks. Old Bar bombed another couple of chances in that time when they attempted too much razzle dazzle.
Lock Nathan Maher was responsible for much of the carnage in attack in his best game in first grade. He kicked judiciously and combined brilliantly with fullback Aden Avery, who scored three tries. Second rower Tom Dooker was another to cause the defence plenty of bother. Five-eighth Kurt Lewis was more subdued than in other matches this year but he still managed to do some clever things with the football.
The previous week the Pirates struggled for numbers in the preliminary semi-final against Macleay and as a consequence were heavily defeated. Rain during the week virtually ruled out training and then the game had to be shifted from Old Bar to the Neal Oval because of the saturated field, so it wasn't the best of preparations for a sudden death game.
But the Pirates started full of purpose when the Maher and Avery show clicked into gear. Maher held up a pass the custodian momentarily juggled before regaining control and sprinting over. Lewis added the conversion and Old Bar were up by six. Port replied with a converted try to second rower Ben Cudmore but the Pirates were in again when winger Eric Grant took a perfectly weighted kick from Lewis to score wide out. A reverse kick from Maher was collected by Avery to cross for Old Bar's third and the goal made it 16-6 at the break.
The Pirates had looked fragile in defence at times in the first half and finally the Sharks were able to cash in with two converted tries early in the second half. But there was no capitulation from Old Bar - in fact it was just the opposite.
Maher worked his way over for an unconverted try to regain the lead for the Pirates. Maher and Avery combined again to bring up Avery's hat-trick but the goal was again astray and Old Bar were up 24-18 with 15 minutes remaining.
Centre Joel Campbell sent winger Alan McDonald on his way and the four pointer virtually sealed the win. But the Pirates were full of running and a great offload by prop Rumone Jackson saw Maher in space and he gave the cover no chance. Jardin Morcombe scored Old Bar's last and prop Dave Windus received the biggest cheer of the day when he slotted the conversion.