Central North Rugby: Moree score come-from-behind win over Pirates

If their first round thumping of Inverell wasn't warning enough, Moree showed they are serious premiership contenders by toppling reigning champions Pirates at Weebolla Oval on Saturday.

The Bulls scored two unanswered tries in the last 15 minutes to haul in the premiers and triumph 29-19.

It was a complete contrast to the seeming ease of their opening round victory with the Bulls on the back foot for a lot of the game. They struggled to find their rhythm with the weight of possession, and penalties, against them.

"We would have been 100 to one to win that game if someone had told me how many penalties, and how many errors we'd make," Bulls coach Damien Kelly said.

"If we get it right I'm pretty confident we can contend."

Kelly credited the forwards with getting them the win.

"We left the Ferrari in the shed," he said.

"Last week our forwards didn't have to do too much," he said.

They set the platform and then let the backs work their magic.


On Saturday they really had to stand up against a strong Pirates pack, and did.

Matt Wannan led the charge and was immense for them at number eight.

Kelly reckoned he was the best player on the field. His Pirates counterpart Conrad Starr wasn't too far behind, Kelly remarking on the battle between the two number eights.

Both were tryscorers for their respective sides, second rower Angus Smith, replacement prop Maciu Latabua and winger Josh Walker also crossing for the Bulls.

They scored all four in the second half.

In the first half Kelly said they would have been lucky to have had the ball for 10 minutes, the penalty count by his calculations something like 25-5 against them.

"We went into Pirates' 30 probably three times in the first half and spilled the ball," he said.

Somehow though they managed to limit the damage to one try.

"We defended well. That's what we've emphasised this year," Kelly said.

It was the cornerstone when he coached them to the premiership in 2013.

We defended well. That's what we've emphasised this year

Damien Kelly

Nineteen points were a few more than he would have liked, but he could excuse that in the circumstances.

"Considering the amount of ball Pirates had they could have put 40/50 on but we aimed up," he said.

He said the penalties were frustrating, and was left scratching his head at what a few of them were for. The stop start nature of the game also made it hard to find their rhythm.

The win is a huge confidence boost.

As impressive as the result against the Highlanders was, Kelly didn't feel it was a true gauge of where they were at.

"We didn't really know if we were that good," he said.

On Saturday they showed they are, and not just a one trick pony either.

He said Smith had a "blinder". Nick Smith also had a strong game at half-back as did John Adams up front.

Kelly also made mention of Jacob Budd playing against his former side.

After playing a full game of reserve grade, Budd found himself in the action early with breakaway Jacob Latham forced off with an injury about 15 minutes in.

Pirates coach Mat Kelly said it was one that they let get away from them.

"We seemed to well and truly let then back in after half-time," he said.

In saying that they probably should have been up by more than they were at the break for the possession they had. They left a few opportunities out there.

"That was more through our stupid mistakes like pushing the pass when we didn't need to," he said.

It was reflective of what he described as a "very patchy" performance.

"At times we played very well and direct, which worked," Kelly said.

He said the three debutants - Jimmy Schwager, Will Sorrenson and Mitch Dening - were great and some of their best players, and certainly isn't hitting the panic button.

They were "very understrength" and have a lot of combinations that are still finding their feet. He felt they probably also missed a bit of weight in the scrum, which has been their strength.