Boggabri Kangaroos have kicked off the Group 4 Rugby League season in style by making history when the club scored an impressive first ever first grade win against powerhouses and defending champs North Tamworth Bears.

The Kangaroos welcomed the Bears to Jubilee Oval for the season opener and the hosts came out firing as they scored inside a minute and later went into the half-time break ahead 18-10.

North Tamworth then piled on three converted tries early in the second stanza to take a 28-18 lead, but the Boggabri men regrouped and they equalised with 10 minutes left to play.

The hosts then hit the lead when a Nick Millar try and Robert Doolan conversion made the score 34-28 to Boggabri with five minutes left to play, and then a  Doolan penalty goal in the dying seconds saw the home side earn a 36-28 victory.

Kangaroos first grade coach Shane Rampling was thrilled with the win and once again commended his club.

“I was proud as punch of the boys,” he told the Gunnedah Times.

“I’m happy for our crowd too. They were loud and helped get us home.

“This club is just amazing.

“Knocking over a team like Norths, especially from where we’ve come from, is a huge achievement.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the effort from our boys.

“When we did get behind, we found a way to come back, and there are good signs there that we can fight back, but we just cannot get into that position a lot.”

Millar was not at 100 per cent going into the round one game as he battled sickness, but no one seemed to have reminded the prop on game day as he produced a standout performance that saw him earn three Group 4 best and fairest points.

Captain Matt Gillham was also as impressive as ever and he earned two best and fairest points.

Those two forward leaders also earned high praise from their coach.

“Nick was having two hit ups in most sets of six. He’s just a workhorse who leads from the front,” Rampling said.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.

“He’s so good for us, getting us on the front foot. He does the hard yards.

“Matt is another workhorse for us. 

“He leads from the front and tackles his heart out, and when he needs to run he runs from dummy half.

“He’s a calm head out there to the boys as a skipper.

“Matty and Nick are the leaders of the pack, and each week you know what you’re going to get out of them.”

There were positive signs early on when Boggabri charged 100 metres to score in the opening set of the match at Jubilee Oval on Saturday. 

Matt Gillham in action for the Boggabri Kangaroos in a first grade win. Photo: Sue Haire

They received possession from the kick-off at the canteen end, and three dominant hit ups from Millar in the first set got the hosts over the halfway line before a superb last tackle play saw Doolan release Thomas Bruce down the left sideline and the winger charged over to score on debut.

Doolan added the extras to make the score 6-0, which became 6-4 in the 15th minute when the Bears went over in the right corner.

Cameron Kerr was the next to score as he crossed between the sticks in the 20th minute following a charging run that saw the Boggabri back-rower break a handful of tackles. 

Doolan added the extras to extend Boggabri’s lead, but North Tamworth again struck back with a try through left winger Flynn Bower who ran the length of the field to score after taking an intercept while defending his own line.

Boggabri then brought the crowd to its feet with a sensational try in the 35th minute that illustrated just how dangerous this group of players can be in 2023.

Doolan created the opportunity as he broke the line in his own half and ran 50 metres upfield.

He was chased down and tackled close to the line, but Gillham threw a bullet past out of dummy half to fullback Dylan Lake, and the debutant set up a try with a brilliant kick over the top of the North Tamworth defence to Bruce, who ran over to score his second of the day.

Doolan added the extras to make the score 18-10, which was the way it remained at the break.

The North Tamworth Bears came out firing and they scored three tries to establish a 28-18 lead, but the Roos were able to find another gear and they mounted a comeback.

Gillham scored a try from close range out of dummy half on the hour-mark, which Doolan converted as he reduced the home side’s deficit to four points, and then five-eighth Clifford Toomey Junior levelled the score at 28-all with 12 minutes remaining when he also scored out of dummy half after he picked up the ball close to the tryline out wide and went down the blind side to dive into the right corner.

Doolan missed the conversion, however, he made no mistake seven minutes later when he stepped up to the tee after Millar had crashed over with a powerful run from close range. 

Doolan’s conversion put Boggabri ahead by six points, which became eight in the final seconds when the centre slotted a penalty goal to make the final score 36-28.

Boggabri also won the reserve grade game when it downed the Bears 16-10, but North Tamworth prevailed in the ladies’ league tag match 44-0.

In reserve grade, Clayton Bruce, Keighan Woodhead and Jack Hayes scored a try each and Chris Anderson kicked two goals.

Ben Haire earned three Group 4 best and fairest points and Hayes picked up two.

Boggabri plays away at Werris Creek this Saturday in round two when the Kangaroos meet the Magpies at David Taylor Park. Werris Creek was on the road at Gunnedah in round one and won first grade 46-16 and under-18s 50-14, but went down 30-26 in reserve grade and 30-6 in ladies league tag.

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