Central North Rugby: Walcha too good for Gunnedah

Walcha had too much speed and potency for Gunnedah in their Tier 1 match-up at Gunnedah on Saturday.

The Rams showed why they are sitting second as they accounted for the Red Devils 53-24 in a performance punctuated by some brilliant attack from their much-vaunted backs.

Still, it wasn’t until late in the game that they were able to shake off the home side, with only 12 points in it with 15 minutes to go.

Simon Newton pushed the Rams beyond two converted tries with just over 12 minutes remaining, before Dom Bower crossed for his second of the game to seal the victory.

Centre Ed Cordingley also scored a double and was prominent in what was a dominant first half from the Rams.

It didn’t always click for them but when it did, it was pretty to watch, the speed they played with and swung the ball along the backline leaving the Red Devils scrambling.

Pete Young puts the polish on Walcha's win

They pretty much survived off scraps in the first half, with the Rams controlling territory and possession.

It was only really Walcha’s mistakes that kept the Red Devils in it, both of their tries coming off errors from the Rams.

The risk of the attacking and expansive game that makes them so dangerous, they were rare blemishes in what Rams co-coach Andrew Crawford thought was a fairly clinical display.

They led 29-17 at the break, Newton missing a penalty just inside the Rams half after the half-time buzzer.

Bower extended their advantage a couple of minutes into the second half.

It was an ominous start to the half for Gunnedah, and got worse when winger Peter Ford was yellow-carded leaving them down to 14, and exposing them to a Rams onslaught.

But it never came.

Instead the Red Devils were the ones that lifted, Sanimo Navatu running back on the inside of half-back Zack Harris and crashing over for his second to cut the difference back to 12.

From there it was a bit of a stalemate with the Red Devils asking questions of the Rams but just not able to finish off their opportunities.

Dom Bower bags his second try

“I think in the second half those guys (Gunnedah) got their act together and played some more structured stuff in the middle, and played with a bit more urgency,” Crawford said.

The Red Devils had held the Rams to just 13 points when they met in the first round, and again showed they could match it in the forwards.

The Rams were just “too quick”, as coach Jason Waerea succinctly put it.

“That was pretty impressive that speed,” Waerea remarked.

The Red Devils countered that a lot better in the second half, and Waerea felt they were well in the game up until about 20 minutes to go.

That was despite having “no ball” in the first half, Waerea almost marveling at the skill and pace the Rams showed particularly in the backs.

“Again our forwards were very well-matched,” he said.

“(But) They’ve got a wonderful swinging backline.”

The question was always going to be whether they could shut them down.

“We found our feet in terms of attacking them in the forwards,” Waerea said.

“We knew that was where we should play the ball but they were rattled by not having the ball.”

“Their ruck play in that first 10-15 minutes was perfect.”

At half-time they spoke about smoking that first ruck.

“That started to slow their ball down a bit,” Waerea said.

And gave them time to realign and ready for the next wave.

Going down to 14 certainly wasn’t in the plan but they handled it pretty well.

Conscious of the threat the Rams backs posed, they sacrificed a forward in the line to make sure they were covering all positions in the backline.

Considering the amount of defending they had to do, especially in the first half, the defence stood up pretty well.

“We were clearly defending for a lot of the half,” Waerea said.

“There were a couple of miss-reads, which resulted in what looked like breakthrough tries.”

Breakaway Will Archer was their best, scooping the best and fairest and players player points.

Navatu and skipper Jamie Mitchell also figured among the points.

The Red Devils have the bye this week before heading to Scone.