They say defence wins premierships and the Nyngan Tigers proved again on Sunday their Group 11 rivals are going to have to produce something special this season to break through the black and gold wall.
The Tigers advanced to a major semi-final against Dubbo CYMS in style, defeating the Forbes Magpies 30-6 in front of another fanatical showing from the Nyngan faithful at Larkin Oval.
The Tigers shot out to a 10-0 lead but Forbes got back within six inside 20 minutes.
But that was as close as the defending premiers got as Stewart Mills’ men controlled proceedings for the rest of the match.
“It’s unreal. We knew it was going to be a tough battle from the start and they didn’t go away,” Mills said after the bruising win.
“It was a full 80 minutes of footy and it was very physical.
“Our defence has been out of sight the last couple of weeks. It’s one think we’ve really worked on and it’s showing in the games now.”
Mills was instrumental at five-eighth while the Nyngan big men, minus Rod Coates after he departed with a knee injury early, bashed their way up the middle time and time again.
While it was a quality contest, it was slightly marred by a late brawl which resulted in Forbes’ Todd Grace, who had been niggled by Nyngan’s Reece Goldsmith, being sent off while Nyngan back-rower Norman Fuiava was also marched, ensuring a nervy week at the judiciary.
Mills said he wasn’t sure what to make of the late drama, instead keen to focus on his side’s continued run of form.
His side has now won nine straight, while for Forbes the loss brought an end to the positive mood developed in the final round win over CYMS.
“We knew it was going to be a tough ask but we didn’t play the football we wanted to play and it was pretty disappointing, to be honest,” Magpies coaching coordinator Cameron Greenhalgh said.
“Our ball control wasn’t there and maybe our attitude early in defence as well, the stuff that had got us through the last couple of wins wasn’t there and to Nyngan’s credit they came out with all guns blazing and put us off our game.”
A brilliant Mills 40/20 while kicking under pressure set up the first try, back-rower Loma Atuau barging across on nine minutes despite protests from the Forbes fans.
Just three minutes later the Tigers were in again, winger Crete Waaka crossing out wide after a neat set play off a scrum and Sam Simmons nailed the conversion to make it 10-0.
Nyngan’s one slip in defence, Jone Yacadrau, charged off the line, resulted in Forbes fullback Chris Kirby slipping through to score and the Magpies had plenty more possession for a period leading up to half time but couldn’t make it count.
The Tigers made them pay shortly before the break, working their way downfield after a penalty and big Tunui Maurangi, on for Coates, muscled his way over to set up a 16-6 half time lead.
Things got better for the hosts three minute into the second stanza, Simmons scooping up a loose pass from a teammate before putting halfback Jacob Neill over next to the posts.
At 22-6 it was slipping away from Forbes and Todd Grace was then put on report for a hit off the ball on Goldsmith, Simmons slotting the resulting penalty.
Ten minutes later Nyngan’s Yacadrau proved impossible to stop from close range and while there was plenty of feeling left in the match, the flurry of punches with nine minutes to go proof of that, the Tigers held off a wave of late Forbes attack to win by 24 points.
“We went into the half on a good note and we started the second half on a great note so it’s full credit to the boys, they really dug deep and we came home with the win,” Mills said.
“We try and stay patient. Obviously things don’t go your way sometimes and a couple of sets in the game they had the ball four or five times on our line and we stayed patient, did our job, and got on with it.”
He again took time to thank the Tigers fans, who’s roars following Yacadrau’s late try would have nearly been heard by CYMS players at Dubbo.
“The crowd is unreal. The boys love coming off this field when they’re chanting everyone so we really thank them a lot because they’ve really supported us through the season and they’re a one-of-a-kind bunch of fans.”
For Forbes, it's now a return to sudden death footy.
The Magpies won in do-or-die matches thorughout the 2016 finals series in a triuphant run to the Group 11 title and next Sunday then men in black and white will host the Parkes Spacemen.
"Obviously there’s an upset feeling in the shed at the moment, which is expected, but we know how we can play and how we can win football games,” he said.
“The pleasing thing about finishing third on the ladder is you get two bites at the cherry but we’re all about trying to win every game every week and play to the best of our ability.”
NYNGAN TIGERS 30 (Loma Atuau, Crete Waaka, Tunui Maurangi, Jacob Neill, Jone Yacadrau tries; Simmons 5 goals) defeated FORBES MAGPIES 6 (Chris Kirby try, Jarrod Nicholson goal)