AFTER missing out on playing finals last year, Inverell is just a win away from the Tier 2 grand final after defeating Barraba 29-22 in Sunday’s minor semi-final.
The home side scored first through Tom Mellor but two tries to Highlanders winger Michael Schneider put them ahead 12-5 with just over 10 minutes to go in the first half.
They held that through to the break, with some smart kicking into space behind the Rams defence helping keep the pressure on the home side.
The Rams struck from the kick-off, forcing a penalty, which Brad Ibrahim put over to make it 12-8.
But the Highlanders replied with two quick tries to blow out to a 16-point lead with half an hour to go.
Schneider scored the first, finishing off some good interplay between the backs.
A couple of minutes later, hooker Trent Hoscher picked up the scraps from some loose play and ran away 50m to score.
Some good hands through the backs to get in behind the Highlanders’ defence resulted in breakaway Isaac Orr crossing to get the Rams back in it.
It seemed to spark them. They started to get a bit more ball and territory but it was the Highlanders that struck, with Tala Vea picking and driving his way over to restore a 14-point lead with 10 to go.
Mellor gave the Rams some late hope with his second, Luke White adding the extras to make it a try the difference with just over three minutes to play.
Ensuring a thrilling finish, the Rams were awarded a short-arm penalty just inside their half in the final seconds but an errant pass was picked up by the Highlanders and they booted it into touch.
It was their first taste of finals action for a few years and, while there were a couple of periods where they fell away, they stuck to what they’d spoken about for most of the game.
“Although things didn’t go our way towards the end, the boys hung in there,” Highlanders coach Simon Clarke said.
“They played as a team for a full game, which is a bit of a rarity for us.”
One of the things they had spoken about heading in was that the Rams forward pack were quite big and their support play was quite good.
For them, that meant keeping their own support play in close to the ball carrier, making sure they protected their ball and were patient with it.
“Patience is what we’ve lacked in the past,” he said.
“The other thing was we had a very strong reserve bench.
“That made a big difference in keeping the intensity up.”
Finals are often decided by who makes the least errors and the Rams made too many.
“I thought we didn’t hold onto the ball in the first half,” Rams coach Nick Bomford said.
“I thought Inverell were hungry and I thought the rub of the green went with Inverell.”
Not that he was using that as an excuse.
Inverell played well and he wished them good luck against Gunnedah thisSunday.
Inverell’s Tim Hayes reaches over the top of Barraba’s Jack McCarthy during this lineout. Photo: Barry Smith 090815BSE06
Despite trailing at the break, he wasn’t too worried.
“I said at half-time, if we can control the ball, we were with with the wind, and it was game on,” he said.
“Then Inverell scored two quick tries and scuttled our boat.”
He thought Will Robinson had a blinder up front. Tom Mellor was also good again while White made a difference when he came on but he was proud of all of them.
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