A terrific defensive display was the catalyst for a dominant 22-0 victory as the Narrabri Blue Boars regained the Hannaford-Southwell Shield at Dangar Park in front of a loud home crowd on Saturday night.

Hundreds were in attendance as the return of rugby in Narrabri saw the hosts take on St Albert’s College in the memorial match.

The two teams last met in 2017 when it was Albies which reigned supreme. Four years on, the Narrabri men were determined to win back a shield the club holds close to its heart, one which remembers former Blue Boar Brad Hannaford and his girlfriend Felicity Southwell who tragically died in a car accident back in 2006.

And that the Blue Boars did while refusing to let their opposition cross the stripe or score any type of point for that matter.

The hosts showed glimpses of class with ball in hand in attack, but far too often handed over possession whether it be from handling errors or conceding penalties.

However, the Blue Boars were well and truly up to the task defensively in all areas of the park but especially inside their own 22 and most importantly on their tryline.

Even while leading 22-0 after the siren had sounded and with Albies charging at their line, the home side refused to be broken and fought with everything it had to keep the visitors scoreless.

That desire to keep Albies out was what most impressed club captain and starting number eight Sam Knight who led the side out on Saturday in the absence of 2021 first grade skipper Matt Schwager.

“It was our first hitout so it was a bit scrappy and after the game we all knew that we have a lot to work on,” Knight said.

“What we were pretty stoked with was our defence.

“I’m an old Albies boy and I’m certain they are going to do really well in their comp this year, they’ve got a good mixture of older and younger boys.

“All in all we were really happy to keep them to nil. They had a lot of good chances and a lot of good plays but we kept them out.

“Our attack wasn’t what it should have been but in saying that our flyhalf and our inside centre only played about a quarter of the game before they had a pretty serious head knock which threw the backline into disarray a bit.

“But as I said we are happy but we’ve got a fair bit to work on.”

Knight was one of the standouts in Saturday night’s victory and was the first to threaten in the match after winning his side possession early with a chargedown.

In a fast-paced first three minutes, the Blue Boars brought the home crowd to its feet when they almost scored a try in the left corner.

However, moments after he won the ball from the chargedown, Knight was tackled over the sideline just before he could get the ball down.

Moments later and at the other end of the field, Jacob Nichols made a try-saving tackle to take an opposition player over the sideline as the visitors made a break well inside their own territory.

Albies then pinned the Blue Boars back deep inside their own half until the 10-mark before the hosts won a penalty on their line to ease the pressure.

To go with his try-saving heroics, Nichols was everywhere during that passage of play and made crucial tackles left, right and centre. He then became the scorer of the side’s first points in 2021 with a 13th-minute try which put the Blue Boars ahead 5-0.

Narrabri then doubled its lead with 15 seconds remaining in the first 20-minute quarter when the backs combined for a superb try.

Nichols was in the thick of the action again as he made a break from the centre of the park on the halfway line then offloaded after being chased down. He found Will McDonald on the left edge who threw the ball to left winger Clayton Pursche who offloaded inside for a try assist as the Knight completed the eye-catching play with Narrabri’s second try.

The hosts missed both conversions in the first quarter and the score remained 10-0 at the first break.

The Blue Boars struck again in the 33rd minute when Jimmy Schwager dived over off the back of some brilliant play by fullback Jydon Hill. Hill picked up a loose ball just inside his attacking half following an Albies kick and he stepped his way past several defenders before chipping with pin-point accuracy to Schwager who caught the ball close to the line and dived over to make the score 15-0, which was the way it remained at the main break.

Friendly fire in that second term saw Nichols and teammate Henri Knight clash heads while attempting to make a tackle. Both men were taken to hospital where they both received stitches for their head wounds.

Back at Dangar Park, the Blue Boars established an even more commanding lead 15 minutes into the second half.

The hosts attacked patiently in the centre of the field before deciding to attack at the right time, spreading the ball left to winger Pursche who flew 50 metres down the left edge before setting up his second try of the contest when he passed inside to Hill just 10 metres out from the line.

Hill went over for the host’s fourth try and Schwager added the extras from right in front to give Narrabri a 22-0 lead.

That’s the way the score remained at the three-quarter-time break despite the Blue Boars’ best efforts. Attacking the Albies tryline, the home side was throwing everything at the visiting team’s defence just before the siren sounded, but as it did the hosts gave away a penalty in the ruck which ended the attacking raid.

Albies enjoyed possession for the majority of the final term as the Blue Boars coughed up possession on multiple occasions through errors that were made due to a mixture of fatigue and overeagerness.

However, the hosts refused to let Albies over the line and the final score finished 22-0 to the Blue Boars.

Prior to the main game, there were four matches played.

A combined colts/third grade Blue Boars side played first and finished all square with Albies as the match ended 17-all.

The second grade fixture saw most of Narrabri’s colts/third grade team play again against a fresh Albies team and the visitors claimed a comfortable 31-0 win.

The two clubs’ women’s sevens sides then went head-to-head in two 14-minute matches. Narrabri won the first encounter 17-10 then went down 15-12 in the second match.

The Blue Boars women almost did the double, scoring with a minute left in the second match to take a 12-10 lead, however Albies then scored off the back of a break after receiving the kick-off which put them back in front on full time.

Narrabri Rugby Club now turns its attention to the fast-approaching Central North Rugby season. The 2021 campaign will get underway for the Blue Boars at Dangar Park on Saturday, April 10, against Quirindi.

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