Central North Rugby: Pirates deny Walcha their premiership fairytale with one point win

Try-time: Ed Churchill plants the ball down for Walcha's second try and the first of his hat-trick. Photo: Peter Hardin
Try-time: Ed Churchill plants the ball down for Walcha's second try and the first of his hat-trick. Photo: Peter Hardin

At 26-6 down late in the first half of Saturday’s grand final, Walcha’s premiership dream looked to be slipping away but the Rams mustered a stunning fightback to almost wrest the silverware from Pirates’ hands.

The operative word is almost, with the premiers - like they did in 2012 - breaking Walcha hearts.

Chasing their first title since 1997 the Rams came oh so close, Ed Churchill’s third try setting up Simon Newton for the chance to put them ahead with just over two minutes to play. But it wasn’t to be for the Rams as Pirates held on to win 40-39.

The Rams’ disappointment was palpable, but there was also a recognition that they had given it their all, and both skipper Will Fletcher and co-coach Barry Hoy expressed how proud they were.

“I’m so proud of what they’ve done,” Hoy said.

“They left nothing behind.”

Addressing his players at the presentation Fletcher said he wouldn’t want to play with anyone else and was proud of where they’d got to.

It was dejavu for both, with Fletcher part of the 2012 side and Hoy also coaching then.

He said he was pretty confident as Newton lined up that final shot having not missed all day and nailed a couple from the sideline.

The five-eighth had given them a 3-nil lead after setting up the opportunity with a smart grubber into the space behind the Pirates defence. But a 20-minute blitz from the home side had the Rams on the ropes.

“We obviously wanted to start stronger than we did,” Fletcher said.

“We didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities. 

“But in true Walcha style we dug deep.”

Hoy said they just needed to get some ball.

“We couldn’t get any ball to do anything,” he said.

They were also uncharacteristically falling off tackles.

“We were missing one on one tackles we hadn’t been missing the last few weeks,” Hoy said. That was enabling Pirates to get on a roll.

But as the Rams’ confidence grew so did their starch in defence. They held Pirates up on at least three occasions, and at one stage in the second half repelled them for about 15 phases. Such was the ferocity of their defence they even forced them back at times.

“That was when I thought it could maybe turn our way,” Hoy said.