Narrabri Rugby Club’s first XV climbed to second on the ladder and returned home with the Kookaburra Challenge Cup following a 34-19 win away from home against Inverell on Saturday.

The Blue Boars outscored the Highlanders six tries to three and the two sides kicked two conversions each in round seven of the 2024 Central North Rugby Union campaign, which saw the Narrabri men return home with five competition points, having overtaken their opponents on the ladder.

The hosts led 19-17 on the hour-mark, but three tries in the final 20 minutes saw Narrabri charge home to win by 15.

The Blue Boars are now on 27 points, trailing only the Moree Bulls (34) who were also victorious in round seven when they outscored the Tamworth Pirates 27-19. The Highlanders (24) and the Pirates (22) round out the top four, and then Quirindi (20), Gunnedah (16) and Scone (12) are fifth to seventh, respectively, following their round seven byes.

Narrabri had not played for three weeks following back-to-back byes going into Saturday’s clash, but they showed patches of brilliance as they looked to recapture the form that saw them trounce Scone by 38 points in round four.

They went behind 7-0 when Inverell second-rower Thomas Apthorpe went over for the first try of the contest and Harry King nailed the conversion but hit back when Nathan Nott scored Narrabri’s first in the 33rd minute and Todd Nichols kicked the conversion to make the score 7-all.

It became 12-7 four minutes later when James Baker crossed for his first of the day, and that was the way the score remained when the half-time siren sounded.

The Highlanders equalised early in the second stanza as their number eight Lawson Muir crossed for their second try of the day, but Narrabri regained the lead in the 53rd minute when Baker grabbed his second try.

The hosts were in front again on the hour-mark after prop Hamish Fraser claimed the side’s third try and King added the extras to make the score 19-17, but Narrabri refused to lie down and were back in front in the 64th minute when skipper Will McDonnell scored the try that earned his side a bonus point and Nichols kicked the conversion to make the score 24-19.

The Blue Boars did not allow the home side to get back in the game and they piled on 10 more points as a Jack Maunder try in the 67th minute and McDonnell’s second of the day in the 78th minute sealed the deal as the visitors secured a 34-19 win.

Narrabri Blue Boars first XV coach Craig Gleeson thought that his men impressed in stages and deserved to come away with the five points.

“At different times, were we very dominant,” Gleeson said.

“I thought our forwards were very strong. They were physically a lot better than Inverell. Our scrum was dominant. Inverell were on roller skates all day and a couple of times folded back over themselves.

“(Hooker Will Turner and props Sam Spanton and Will Ciesiolka) are massive for us and their work rate is unbelievable. Will had a bug on Friday night and we didn’t know if he was going to play, but he let me know he’d be coming over, and he got 70 minutes out after being crook all night. It was a fantastic effort.

“The way they dominate gives us so much good ball for guys like Willow (Will McDonnell), Todd (Nichols) and Joe Baker to do their thing. I can’t give them enough credit really.

“Then with Rums (Jake Rumsby) and Schwag (Josh Schwager) as a one-two punch, it worked really well. They made lots of ground and really put holes in the Inverell defence.

“They are big men and they are hard to stop, and they really put us on the front foot. Charlie Turner was in the second row as well and he was outstanding again.

“Our cleanout was a lot better than it had been. The breakdown was a lot better this game and our ball was a lot cleaner coming out. Our lineout was also very, very good this week. We’ve been turning over 40 or 50 per cent of ball on our own throw, but we won about 90 per cent this week.

“At different times, our execution wasn’t great, I’d say. After a couple of bye weeks, we were missing continuity and we weren’t great at times.

“But to go over there and walk away with five points and to come away with a fairly convincing win, I think probably shows where the boys are at compared to Inverell. Even though we were behind a couple of times, we never really felt threatened.”

Narrabri are now the Kookaburra Challenge Cup holders after Inverell entered the weekend with it. The Cup started the 2024 season in Gunnedah’s possession after the Red Devils won it off Narrabri in the final round of 2023. However, it was won off them by Tamworth Pirates in round one who then beat Scone in round two and had byes in rounds three and four. Inverell won it off Pirates in round five and then had a bye in round six before dropping it during their first defence against the Blue Boars.

In second grade, Narrabri scored their fourth straight win when they defeated Inverell 36-19. The Blue Boars ran in six tries as David McCathie, Linton Grumley, Jacob Booby, Zack Mallows, Luke Tuckey and Miles Campbell each crossed the stripe. The visitors also kicked three conversions.

The Blue Boars are second on the ladder with 28 points, five behind top-ranked Moree Bulls who are on 33 points following their 24-19 away win against Pirates on Saturday.

The other round seven clash was won 29-7 by Barraba on home soil against Gunnedah, while Scone and Quirindi both had byes.

Narrabri had a bye in the women’s tens competition and climbed from second to first after Gunnedah went down 38-10 against Barraba to drop to second. The other round seven match saw Pirates outscore Moree 32-25.

The Blue Boars are back in action at Dangar Park in all three grades this week. The women’s team will play on Thursday night under lights against Moree, and then the first and second grade teams will challenge Quirindi Lions on Saturday afternoon.

To order photos from this page click here