FOR the first time in more than a decade, the Scone Rugby Club hosted a Central North Rugby Union play-off at Scone Park on Sunday.
The local Brumbies locked horns with the Gunnedah Red Devils in the first grade fixture, while the Pirates tackled the Red Devils in the reserves.
Unfortunately, Nacaniele Tavaga again proved a thorn in Scone’s side, inspiring Gunnedah to a 20-7 win in the second elimination final.
Following his two-try effort last time the two teams met, the winger bagged three to propel the Red Devils into a home semi against Narrabri next Sunday.
“I’m stoked,” Gunnedah coach Jason Waerea said after what was a tough, typical finals clash.
Humbled by the Red Devils only a fortnight ago, and playing in their first home final for a decade, the Brumbies really muscled up, particularly in defence.
“It was a very tight game. They were much better defensively than they were two weeks ago,” Waerea said.
There was nothing in it for a lot of the contest.
The Red Devils - despite having by Waerea’s reckoning probably 80 per cent of the ball in the first half - only led 7-0 at half-time, and with around 25 minutes remaining the margin was only five.
Around that time the Red Devils picked up one of their three yellow cards but they were able to hold the Brumbies out.
“We actually had a lot of the ball,” Waerea said.
That was a large part due to the forwards.
As was the story two weeks ago the Red Devils were “very dominant” in the set pieces.
“We turned over a lot of lineouts and in the scrum we put so much pressure on their scrum they couldn’t get any clean ball,” Waerea said.
Unlike that last game though, where they beat the Brumbies outwide, on Sunday they it was back through the middle channels that they found success with the Brumbies ironing out their defensive issues.
“When we turned the ball back inside we started to make some cracks in the defensive line,” Waerea said.
The Brumbies did scramble well to shut them down a lot of times, but, as Waerea acknowledged, it is hard to sustain that for 80 minutes.
The Red Devils’ defence was equally solid, and similar to their last encounter they forced the Brumbies to go over the top.
Waerea found it hard to go past Tavaga as among their best. Breakaway Will Archer and second rower Matt Roseby also had big games.
“He (Roseby) had a great game in the air. He stole a lot of ball,” he said.
It’s been a big year for Scone, who not only reached the competition’s semi-final but is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017.