DASHING the ambition of a strong Western outfit, a last-ditch try from last year’s NSW Country fullback Tim Smith has given Greater Northern Tigers a gutsy 12-6 round one Tier Two Regional Championship victory.
Played at Singleton’s Resco Park on Saturday, Western was made to play catch-up football from the outset after a Brady Hammond try shot the Daniel Ritter-inspired Tigers out to a 6-0 lead at the break.
Doing so successfully thanks to a Chris Daley try and Tom Lewsley conversion mid-way through the second half, Western’s luck soon turned when the Rams conceded a penalty 25 metres out, just to the right of the posts.
Tigers’ sharp shooter Joel Harrison had his penalty attempt waved away, however, giving the Rams hope.
But from the ensuing 20 metre drop-out the Tigers charged up field and following a quick play-the-ball, Smith darted out of acting half to score the match-winner at the 75-minute mark.
After a tough 40-28 defeat to the Central Coast in 2013, Saturday’s heart-breaking loss is the second year running Western Division has bowed out of the regional championship when faced with the tournament’s first hurdle.
Obviously disappointed, Rams captain-coach Dennis Moran believes his side’s handling let it down at crucial points of the match.
“The difference was not holding on to the ball and not completing our sets,” the Parkes Spacemen halfback said.
“We spoke about it at halftime when we were down 6-0 and for a period there we controlled the footy but (to lose like that), it’s very disappointing, especially with the preparation we had.
“We got a few good training sessions under our belt this year, we had a few players pull out late but that’s no excuse ... at the end of the day if you don’t hold the footy and complete your sets you get knocked out in round one.”
Orange CYMS centre Ben McAlpine was a late withdrawal for the Rams.
McAlpine is currently out for the green and golds with a groin injury, but the impact of that loss was offset by the solid debut of Dubbo CYMS speedster Jyie Chapman.
Moran also praised the work of front-rower Brent Seager, with the Bathurst Panther proving his quality with 68 impressive minutes against some of the best players in the bush.
“Greater Northern kept coming all day,” Moran added.
“But Jack Afamasaga and Brent Seager played really well in the forwards for us, it just came down to ball handling.
“That’s footy, and there’s only ever one winner.”
GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS 12 (Brady Hammond, Tim Smith tries; Joel Harrison 2 goals) def WESTERN RAMS 6 (Chris Daley try; Tom Lewsley goal).