Gunnedah Red Devils second XV suffered their third loss of the 2023 Central North Rugby second grade competition, defeated to the tune of 24 points against Barraba Rams at Gunnedah Rugby Park at the weekend.

Set piece and ball control were the Achilles heel for the Devils side, failing to string together continual phases of play and turning the ball over through ill-discipline with ball in hand, continually relinquishing field position to their opposition.

Although resolute in defence inside their defensive 22 throughout the match, the Devils defensive wall eventually busted and were made to pay inside the first 20 minutes of the first half.

They conceded two tries as the Rams shot out to a 12-nil lead through their forwards stringing numerous phases together, tiring out the Devils forward pack to isolate the defence on the fringes of the ruck in scoring both tries adjacent to the posts.

Down on the scoreboard early, the Devils’ poor ball control when in possession forced themselves to continually rely on their defence that was proving resolute.

They forced the Rams attack wide and upon the Devils’ application to defensive pressure, Barraba pushed the final pass to cough up set piece possession to the Devils.

However, the Devils couldn’t capitalise on their opportunities and struggled to move past halfway, as Barraba continually seized on the Devils’ inability to control their set piece scrum and lineout.

Crucially, on the stroke of half time, Barraba struck one final blow by scoring again through a mountain of attack on a resolute Devils defence that again broke down through a wave of constant Rams attacking pressure.

Fullback Josh Carter looked to ignite the Devils in attack and through a surging kick return, left two would-be Barraba defenders in his wake.

Play was halted as a man was hurt through Carter’s vigor and as the Devils found some momentum off the back of a ruck infringement penalty, they looked to mount a comeback starting with their first look inside their opponent’s 22 metre line.

They came within five metres of the Barraba line following a barnstorming effort from inside centre Apeli Valaseru, but the final pass went to ground and that was the last entry for the Devils inside their opponent’s 22.

Barraba closed out the match with a final try, running 100m downfield to all but put the result beyond doubt for the Devils with the final scoreline 24 to nil.

Captain Hamish Hockings was a livewire at scrumhalf, along with fullback Carter and centre Valaseru as the most potent of the Devils line-up.

Despite the loss, the second VX remain within touching distance of the top four early in the season.

In the other match of the day, the Devils women’s 10s side ran out a resounding victory against Barraba, clocking up 50 points to defeat their opposition 51 to five.

They ran in nine tries in their 46 point victory, displaying a free-flowing style of rugby to sound a warning to the Central North women’s competition as one of the sides to beat this season.

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