Gwydir did on Saturday what few teams have done over the years, defeated the Group 19 Premiers, Glen Innes on their home ground.
In fact it was a double with the reserves coming back from 4-12 deficit at half time to win 24-22. The firsts were more comfortable at 22-4 at the break, 34-4 after 50 minutes and eventually holding on for a 40-22 victory.
The reserve grade match was a ripper with the Magpies jumping out of the blocks and cruised to a 18-4 lead well into the second half. However Gwydir started to get a bit of ball and the turning point came with a try to Rhys Aleckson and a conversion to Rocky Hall.
A few minutes later, Sam Cooper scored, the conversion missed, but at 14-18 the writing was on the wall for the Magpies. Tim Grant galloped across the half way to get the next attack started and then the best player on the ground, Andrew McClymont scored. Again the kick missed, leaving the score at 18 all with eight minutes on the clock.
Somehow, Glen regrouped to post what looked like the winning try to make it 18-22, however, Gwydir’s newest recruit, Brayden McGrady who had scored the first try, sealed the win with a second, for Rocky Hall to convert.
This was a fine performance in cold windy conditions and illustrates the depth in the Club. Players’ player was McClymont, he also was awarded three best and fairest points, Andrew Wynne got two and another new signing, Jack Faint collected one point.
The first’s clash had plenty of build up in the Northern media and the general feeling was that Gwydir had the edge in the backs, but the jury was out on the forward’s match up.
The question posed, was whether the Gwydir boys could hack it with a premiership pack. This was soon put to bed as the Gwydir backs ran in six tries to only two by the Magpies. Not only did the Gwydir pack hold Glen, they had them on the back foot most of the game. Brendon Crichlow, Mick Hodges, Ben Kennedy, Steve Garrett, Caleb Austin, Casey Bowman, Aaron Rodilossi and Tyler Dennison set the platform for some classy work by arguably, some of the best backs in the North.
They may have started the season as a pack of no names, but they are quickly becoming known as dish it out to some more fancied opposition.
The game was only minutes old when Gwydir lost their Northern Division centre, Matty Cleal to injury and he was replaced by Andrew Wynne who had played a full reserve grade game.
Earlier, the other centre, Ashley Churchland was unavailable and replaced by 19 year old Sam Armstrong. Despite the disruptions, Gwydir just got on with the job with tries to Nathan Grady (after five minutes) Harold Duncan (27m), Aaron Rodilossi (31m) and Mitch Porter (36m) to lead 22-4 at the break. Todd Simpson, in difficult conditions kicked two conversions.
Things continued to go well when Armstrong, who was making his first grade debut scored six minutes into the second half, Simpson converted from the sideline, 28-4 and shortly after when Glen held off five- eight David McGrady, he was gone in a twinkling racing down field to hit Mitch Porter with a perfect pass, 34-4 with the conversion.
There was not a tweet from the rugged up Magpie supporters, this is an unheard phenomenon!
However the Magpies are a champion team and with 25 minutes on the clock they gradually got back some composure and activated their supporters.
Two quick tries saw the score move to 34-16 and they had a sniff of a chance as Gwydir was placed under pressure for the first time in four matches.
However a few gentle instructions from the Coach had the structure restored enough to allow Mitch Porter to jig past the defence and run 35 metres to score, Simpson converted and the job was done.
Glen scored a consolation try in the dying minutes to make the final score more respectable at 40-22.
Porter, McGrady and Casey Bowman collected best and fairest points, while McGrady was Players’ Player.
In other games Inverell d Ashford (28-10), Moree d Armidale (52-38)
In reserves, Moree d Armidale (40-36), Inverell d Ashford (28-20), Tingha d Uralla (40-26)
In League Tag Armidale d Moree (20-10), Uralla d Tingha (16-10), Inverell d Ashford (18-10).
Unfortunately the Gwydir Ladies had to forfeit to Glen due to injuries and work commitments.
Next week Gwydir plays Uralla at Bingara in reserves and league tag. The first match will commence about 1pm after minor league has concluded.
The first grade squad will train at Warialda and then travel to Bingara to meet sponsors and mingle with the supporters.