Gunnedah overcame Barraba in a scrappy, tight and at times willing contest on Saturday to leapfrog the Rams into third heading into the long weekend general bye.
But not before a late scare, with the home side scoring with around three minutes remaining.
In the end Brad Swain’s boot proved the difference, his conversion of Mal Frend’s second half try – from a dart off the back of a scrum - all that split the two sides as the Red Devils prevailed 14-12.
It was one of those games coach Jason Waerea was happy to get away with the points from with the Red Devils struggling to convert their territorial dominance into points.
“We spent a lot of time up their end of the field but we’d get to five phases and turn the ball over or get penalised for holding on,” he said.
Similar to their clash with the Rams last season, they couldn’t really get any flow to their game, the home sides spoiling tactics disrupting their rhythm and causing some frustration.
Both sides played the last quarter of the game with only 14 after props Matt Pardesi (Gunnedah) and Steven Gadd (Barraba) were sent-off after a scuffle.
Generally Waerea thought his side held their composure fairly well. He could see them getting frustrated at the way the game was being controlled on the ground.
He had going into the game spoken about the Rams’ backs being the danger, but they handled them pretty well, although they still had some moments of brilliance.
“They’ve got a great backline and we’d practiced well for them swinging the ball wide,” Waerea said.
“It was good to be able to hold them out. The boys were very confident because they were on such a defensive high after the Walcha game.”
Conversely the Red Devils backline was sharp and matched the Rams for foot speed.
Oscar Hunt’s first half try demonstrated that and was a real highlight. It came from a “pretty clean first phase movement” that involved several of the backs and finished with Hunt steaming onto a kick through from Zac Newcombe and running away 20m to score.
The set pieces were again an area of strength against what was a big Rams’ pack, with the Red Devils, in Waerea’s opinion, having the dominant scrum and retaining all of their lineout ball.
He again too extolled the virtues of Jeremy Brown, who was outstanding at breakaway and picked up the three points.
Skipper Jamie Mitchell grabbed the two with Russell Johnston and Kurtys Bont sharing the one.
Waerea also made mention of Jono Madden, who shifted from the centres to number eight and showed he can play in the forwards.
The Red Devils travel to Scone when the competition resumes.
Waerea couldn’t be much happier with how they are travelling – their first half against Moree their only real blemish.
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