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Highlanders down Magpies

SCOTT Houston provided a late and final twist as Inverell pulled off a first round upset at Tamworth Rugby Park on Saturday.
Nanjing Night Net

QUICK HANDS: Dylan Lewis offloads the ball during a game that saw the Highlanders bring home the first round points.PHOTO: by Geoff O’Neill.

Not many expected the Highlanders to come out on top, but they did; Houston slipping through the Tamworth defence with three minutes to go, and with the conversion, usurping the home side 33-29.

The Magpies had, eight minutes earlier, through a barnstorming Sanimo Navatu, hit the front for the third time in the game.

It was indicative of what was a see-sawing arm wrestle with both sides having passages of dominance and the lead flitting between five and three points most of the game.

A delighted Highlanders co-coach Simon Clarke attributed the win to their “sheer grit and determination to never give in”.

Houston’s try typified that. First he had to recover from a scrum that was on the backfoot. Then after breaking through the Magpies line he stumbled.

But he was able to regain his footing and find his way to the line.

Clarke couldn’t have been prouder of them, especially the way they regrouped after Navatu’s try.

“All too often we seem to come off the wrong end in those games,” he said.

The win was soured by a leg injury to fullback Dylan Lewis, who, on initial reports, they could be missing for a while.

The Magpies had their own injury concerns, losing outside centre Wes Rooney in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Typically of a first round clash, it was scrappy with that cohesion and fluidity not quite there, and mistakes prevalent, whether dropped balls or passes not hitting their mark.

The Magpies were first to strike with Lewyn Rapana running a close line off five-eighth Ben Coombes and bursting through.

The Highlanders hit back through Matt McRae, the winger steaming onto a perfectly weighted grubber from five-eighth Hunter Barnett.

It seemed to spark them and they not long after took the lead with Lewis chiming in one off the ruck and surprising the Magpies defence.

They managed to scramble and grab him, but he was able to pop the ball up to prop Tom Apthorpe in support. Houston then extended their lead right on half-time, looping around to the right off a 5m scrum and muscling his way over.

Lewis added the extras from the sidelines to make it 19-7 at the break.

Tamworth came out with a renewed vigour in the second half and, on the back of tries to Pat Strong and Alistair Doyle, reclaimed the lead.

Tyson Kennedy snatched it back for the Highlanders before Navatu charged his way over to put the Magpies ahead 29-26 with 12 minutes to play.

Magpies co-coach Mark Daley was frustrated and disappointed.

It was there for them to win.

They just let themselves down with “simple, fundamental errors”.

The performance was littered with dropped balls. At one stage, he commented, it looked like they were trying to play sevens, and there was some sloppy defence.

“Full credit to them (Inverell) they took their opportunities,” he said. He thought Tom Anderson, Rapana and Navatu were their best, the latter really coming to life in the second half.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.