When the Narromine Gorillas’ maul drove the Molong Magpies 40 metres down the field in Saturday’s GrainCorp Cup Northern Division grand final, captain-coach Craig Campbell knew they had the game in the bag.
The hosts were the classier side in the first half, and went into the break with a 12-3 lead.
But it wasn’t until about the 60th minute – when Narromine crashed over for their fourth try after the set play – that Campbell felt confident Narromine could claim the silverware.
“We did a maul from our own 22 and it went about 40 metres and … that wasn’t luck, we’d been working on that all season,” he said.
“Once we did that and we scored I just knew they couldn’t come back from that … That’s a demoraliser right there and that’s what wins you games.”
The Gorillas’ maul was dominant all game and they rolled over the top of the visiting Magpies early in the first half to get their first points through Charlie Tuck.
Campbell crashed over for his own try 10 minutes later and Dylan Ryan converted to the lead to 12-0.
A lapse in the Gorillas’ discipline gave Molong a penalty and Mitch Oldham made no mistake to make it 12-3; that was where the scores remained despite Ryan’s attempt at his own penalty just before the break.
The Magpies came out firing in the second half and, aside from a Luke Brown try to make it 17-3, spent much of the opening 20 minutes squeezing the Gorillas’ defence on their try line.
Poor discipline from the home side gifted Molong repeated possession but they couldn’t convert.
When Narromine finally managed to get some ball they muscled up in the maul, driving the Magpies back almost 40 metres.
They were rewarded a few phases later when Ryan caught a soaring pass out wide and skirted around Molong’s defence to plant the ball between the uprights.
Molong bounced back soon after with Mitch Brown forcing his way over, but the damage was done and Mick Harris sealed Narromine’s win in the dying moments.
Molong captain Josh Peffer was disappointed, but proud of his side.
“It was a really big effort for our club to get here today,” he said. “We were travelling with 13 players [mid-way through the season] and to get up here and make it to the grand final … showed a lot of heart by a lot of the boys.
“We played well. We were dominated in the set pieces, especially the scrum. Narromine had a great scrum … They deserved [the win] and I hope they enjoy it.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Campbell said. “It’s been a long, tough season.
“Hats off to Molong … they played exceptionally well [to get into the final] and they were worthy opponents.”
Ultimately Narromine’s fitness and experience won out in the end, Campbell said.
NARROMINE GORILLAS 31 (Charlie Tuck, Craig Campbell, Luke Brown, Dylan Ryan, Mick Harris tries; Dylan Ryan 2, George Hancock goals) def MOLONG MAGPIES 10 (Mitch Brown try; Will Oldham goal; Oldham penalty)