OLD Bar Pirates gave their old boys something to celebrate with a grinding 28-18 win over Wingham in the Group Three Rugby League game at Old Bar on Saturday afternoon.
There were plenty of old Pirate jumpers in the crowd as the club marked Old Boys Day. The 2017 version of the Pirates responded in the best possible manner, leading 16-12 at halftime before going on in the second half to score a convincing victory – the side’s second on the trot.
The Tigers have now lost three-in-a-row and face the daunting prospect of playing the form teams of the competition, Macleay Valley and Port City in the next two matches. At least both will be at Wingham.
Both sides had handling problems in what was a scrappy game. Old Bar captain-coach Danny Russell called on his side to show greater respect for the football in last Friday’s Times. But the Pirates again frittered away too much possession. As luck would have it for Old Bar, Wingham frittered away more.
Enigmatic five-eighth Nathan Maher is a match winner for the Pirates. There are substantial periods in the game when he doesn’t appear too interested. However, when he decides to get involved Maher can turn a game. This was summed up in the 54th minute when the Pirates were down 20-18. It was the last tackle yet instead of kicking, Maher sent a spiraling pass out to centre Clint Walker, who was in space. Walker doesn’t need to be asked twice when he’s given that sort of invitation and he sped along the touchline to position winger Aden Avery, who did well to score his second try of the game. The conversion missed from the sideline but the home side wasn’t headed from there.
Wingham had the opportunity to level the scores soon after when awarded a penalty almost in front. However, they opted for the tap and this looked to be the right play until a smashing cover tackle from Old Bar prop Andictor Petelo stopped the movement. The Tigers forfeited possession soon after.
A further converted try to forward Jae Simon and a Russell penalty goal sealed the competition points for Old Bar.
Second rower Jacob Stephenson powered through plenty of work for the Pirates and he was about their best on the day. Russell controlled play when it counted.
Prop Rumone Jackson was Wingham’s best, but the Tigers seem to lack urgency in attack. They’re still missing a couple of players, but even so, first graders shouldn’t drop the amount of ball the Tigers are currently coughing up.
Russell described the performance as ‘a hard fought win’ while agreeing it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.
“That was probably due to the conditions. It was a bit wet and windy, but we did our best.’’
The Pirates had the wind at their back in the first half and trotted off leading by four. Russell admitted he wasn’t sure if that was enough.
“It’s hard to tell in football, but I thought we came away strongly in the end.’’
He agreed that Stephenson was good.
“He’s just one of those boys who keep going forward. It’s just what you want – guys doing the dirty stuff.’’
Wingham mentor Jamie Moorehead hopes the home crowd might lift Wingham in the difficult fortnight ahead.
“Hopefully we can grab one of the games,’’ he said.
Moorehead backed the decision to stay on the attack and not go for goal when the Tigers received the penalty when down 22-20.
“I think there was still close to 15 minutes to go. We kept attacking and I thought we may have had them there at one stage but we got held up. We were close enough to get points.’’
Moorehead again refused to use the absence of key players as an excuse.
“It’s footy. You still have 17 blokes there each week and that’s all we can work with. Rumone Jackson got through plenty of work today and he just gets better and better.’’
Avery scored first for Old Bar and Russell kicked the goal to make it 6-0 but centre Matt Bridge positioned winger Michael Bailey to open Wingham’s account and Bailey added the extras. Allan McDonald edged Old Bar in front with a try in the corner that was converted by Russell before Bailey added his second after a scramble for the ball in the goal mouth. Bailey’s goal locked it at a dozen apiece.
Just before the break a smart kick from Maher found the ubiquitous Walker and he sent winger Matt Hardcastle over for an unconverted meat pie. After the resumption Trent Green held up a pass to put Jackson in space and he charged over for Bailey to convert, however, from there it was all Old Bar.
Old Bar 28 (A Avery 2, M Hardcastle, J Simon, A McDonald tries, D Russell 4 goals) defeated Wingham 18 (M Bailey 2, R Jackson tries, M Bailey 3 goals).
Reserve grade: Wingham 36 d Old Bar 16
Under 18s: Old Bar 30 d Wingham 12
League tag: Old bar 24 d Wingham 4.