TAMWORTH snuffed out a late push from Gunnedah to win a see-sawing tussle at Tamworth Rugby Park on Saturday and push their way into the top five.
The Magpies twice came from behind in the second half to claim the points 25-22 and, with the bonus point, leapfrog the Red Devils and Barraba into fifth.
Their top five hopes were on the line and they had dig deep to save them.
Co-coach Mark Daly admitted it was difficult to watch at times, especially the final minutes after Red Devils winger Tom Adams had brushed his way out of a couple of tackles to make it a three-point game with four minutes to go.
Not long after, fullback Keegan Loughrey looked like he might step his way through to steal it but the Magpies managed to cut him down and hold on.
It was typical of what was a rollercoaster second half, with the Red Devils hitting the front through half-back Dave Heyman just a couple of minutes in.
The home side had led 10-7 at the break on the back of tries to Lewyn Rapana and Patrick Strong.
Strong had the crowd on their feet, the fullback chipping and winning the race to the ball to finish off a spectacular 50m raid.
Harry Veitch instigated it, slipping an offload to Sanimo Navatu.
The big number eight then popped a pass to Sam Wheaton and quick hands found Strong out wide.
It pushed them out to 10-nil with just over 15 minutes to go in the first half.
Minutes later though they were reduced to 14, with second-rower Simon Vumilagi binned and the momentum started to turn.
The Red Devils were virtually camped in Tamworth’s 22 for the last 15 minutes, most of which the Magpies had to play a mand down after Sam Scott was yellow-carded with a couple of minutes to go.
But they managed to weather the storm until just after the half-time buzzer when prop Josh Leys crashed over.
Strong’s second – this time running off a great pop off the ground from Vumilagi – put the Magpies back in front, but only briefly, with Pete Henderson kicking the Red Devils two in front with 25 to go.
Their time in front was equally brief, with winger Nick Humphries crossing minutes later to restore the Magpies’ lead.
They were never headed from there, a perfectly executed driving maul off a lineout giving them a more than converted try buffer which, in the end, proved invaluable.
“We were our own worst enemies at times,” Daly said.
“We looked fantastic ball in hand but we just gave away a few silly penalties.”
He thought their defence was where they won it and their pressure at thebreakdown.
Tamworth number eight Sanimo Nevatu tries to power his way out of the clutches of Gunnedah’s Joe Duffy (left) and Dave Heyman. Photo: Barry Smith 200615BSF22
They won the battle there and pilfered a lot of ball from the Red Devils in attack.
In the first half alone they would have turned over the ball four or five times with the Red Devils hot on attack.
That was where it was lost for Gunnedah.
“We just turned over too much ball in that first half,” Red Devils co-coach Tim Walsh said.
“We’d make 50m breaks then we’d turn the ball over.
“Hence we didn’t have enough ball.”
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