Central North Rugby: Walcha beat Gunnedah in preliminary final

Walcha overcame a game Gunnedah at Walcha on Saturday to reach their first grand final since 2012.

The Rams set up a replay of that decider with a hard-fought 36-20 win.

“That was our aim,” co-coach Barry Hoy said.

“We’ve got nothing to lose now.”

On Saturday they were straight onto the attack, Simon Newton putting them ahead 3-nil after only a couple of minutes.

But the sharpness that has been there in attack in recent weeks was lacking, the Rams making uncharacteristic mistakes.

Playing with a real vigour and taking the fight to the Rams, the Red Devils earned a chance to reply about 10 minutes later.

Adam Mooney converted, and kicked a second penalty not long after for a 6-3 lead.

Their time in front was short-lived though.

Barely a minute later the Rams finally got a play to stick and outside centre Ed Cordingley did the finishing.

Reknowned for their ability to score quickly the Rams were in again a minute later through Cordingley’s centre partner Pat Keen.

Fullback Ed Churchill was the instigator chiming into the backline and splitting the Gunnedah defence open. While the cover defence scrambled back to deny him, the Red Devils were penalised.

Sensing they had the Red Devils on the ropes the Rams opted for the quick tap instead of the points. From the ensuing tap Ross Fletcher made a barnstorming run and then a quick shift to the right found Keen and the Country rep did the rest.

Newton added the extras to give them a 17-6 lead.

But the Red Devils rallied again, and after the half-time hooter Will Archer ran a good support line to get them back in it.

It was the result of sustained attack with the Red Devils having a succession of penalties on the Rams’ line.

Opting for quick taps and scrums it looked like all that pressure was going to come to nothing when they knocked on. But from the scrum they earned a penalty, and from the quick tap the Rams’ resilience was finally broken.

Mooney added the two points to make it a four-point game at the break.

Arguably the most adventurous side in the competition, the Rams had a couple of opportunities go begging early in the second half as they looked to really take control.

Walcha captain Will Fletcher gives his assessment of their preliminary final

The Red Devils must have felt like they were under siege with the waves of attack coming from the Rams.

But like the home side just before half-time, the Red Devils muscled up in defence.

Eventually though something had to give, and it did with Red Devils number eight Sanimo Navatu yellow-carded after some desperate defence prevented Keen scoring.

The Rams took the opportunity to settle things by opting for the penalty to push out a seven-point lead.

Not long after Newton scored to give them a bit more comfort.

He then put them beyond two converted tries with his third penalty of the game.

Jack King then sealed it for them, the Red Devils scoring a late consolation try through Darrell Morrison.