Following Gwydir’s massive 56-20 defeat of Glen Innes on Sunday, the Club has one last hurdle to jump in their quest for the Group 19 major premiership. However it has been a long haul for the new club, the formation of committees, agreeing policies, signing the coaches, recruiting the players and the gradual build up of expectations as the good results flowed.
Firstly, the winning of the Group 19 preseason knockout at Glen Innes, the elation of actually leading the first grade competition, a mid season slump, the recovery and the minor semi final win over the tough Tingha Tigers. Now a grand final spot against the might of the Moree Boomerangs.
The defeat of Glen Innes was decisive and for about 70 minutes almost perfect. The start was made to order when Glen held off fullback Mitch Porter for a few seconds and that is all it took, 4-0 after five minutes and 8-0 after 20 minutes when Brendon Chrichlow slipped a pass to David McGrady for another classy try. Then came 10 minutes of very ordinary play, missed tackles, poor ball possession and loss of structure that resulted in tries to the Magpies by Jay Hampson and Jamie Watts for Glen to lead 10-8. However Harold Duncan (34th minute), McGrady (38th minute) and Porter (40th minute) had the game virtually won at half time, 24-10 with 2 goals to Ash Churchland.
The second half was all Gwydir with tries at the 3rd minute (Duncan), 5th (Porter), 16th (Nat McGrady), 18th (Porter), 27th (David McGrady) and 38th (Churchland). Gwydir scored 11 tries to 4 by Glen and kicked 6 goals to 2 to make it three wins from three outings against the 2012 Premiers, a remarkable achievement.
Porter scored four wonderful tries of speed, skill and absolute class. David McGrady, the five eight, bagged three tries and Glen had no answers as he slipped the ball to supports or delivered long accurate passes to hard running outside backs. Any hesitation by the defence saw him putting the ball down for a try. Simply magic play!
However one would be wrong to just think it was the McGrady, Porter or Duncan show. Coach Stevens knew what they would produce, but only if the rest of the squad, particularly the forwards followed the game plan and that happened most of the time. Front rowers, Chrichlow, Ben Kennedy, Brent Sampson and Steve Garret laid the platform against a bigger and much more experienced opposition.
Their rotation was clinical execution of gang defence and punching holes in the opposition’s straight line for McGrady and Captain Matthew Cleal to direct Gwydir’s attack. Cleal had a great leader’s game. Chrichlow deserves special mention for his key role; the big fellow was awesome as he burst through setting up the second phase play. Nathan McGrady was reliable as ever on the wing and he has the knack of finding the line.
Back rowers, Tyler Dennison, Adam Rodilossi and Casey Bowman worked tirelessly, holding the line and cleaning things up as the Glen inside backs tried to work the fringes. In attack they were relentless, each taking their share of the hit ups. Hooker Mick Hodges simply did what he has done every game, crushing front on defence and taking all right options from dummy half. Churchland continued his great form in the centres, hard running, and tough defence and kicked six goals, just missing a few from wide out. His centre partner, Sam Armstrong was just as impressive, but left the field in the second half with knee injuries.
Finally the utility players, Sam Cooper and Ted Cleal, came off the bench and immediately slotted into the game. Cooper again was wonderful and is one of the best emerging young players in the Group. The squad also included Todd Simpson and Rhys Aleckson; they deserve special mention for making themselves available if their specific skills had been needed on the day.
The players are now focussed on next week and Stevens will name a squad of about 20 to set up the game of the year at 2.30 pm in Moree.
In other games, Rangs defeated Glen 28-18 in reserves, Glen defeated Uralla 30-22 in juniors and also defeated Tingha 40-16 in the League Tag. This means that next Sunday the Rangs will play Armidale in reserves, Glen Innes in 18s and Uralla and Glen contest the league tag.
Finally, perhaps the one thing that best illustrates Glen Innes’s day was that the resident nesting Magpie continually attacked the Glen players and ignored the enemy, Gwydir!