“EMUS are the best side we’ve played this year.”
Bathurst Bulldogs assistant coach Scott Johnston paid Orange Emus the ultimate compliment after the greens dismantled his side at Endeavour Oval on Saturday.
Emus extended its unbeaten run to six games with a gritty 17-5 win over Bulldogs, and maintained third spot on the Blowes Clothing Cup ladder in doing so.
“That was the toughest game we’ve played all year,” Johnston said.
“They’ve improved a long way since round one and will feature in the pointy end of the season.”
The hosts produced an inspired defensive effort to secure the 12 point win with Bulldogs enjoying the bulk of possession in the clash.
The visitors deployed monster forwards Izaak Breen and Hayden Tidswell as battering rams in the opening exchanges, looking the better of the two sides.
However, when Breen was forced to leave the field with suspected broken ribs after a crushing hit from Emus hooker Tom Goolagong, the hosts lifted in defence and began to gain ascendency via brutality.
Neither side broke into the other’s 22 metre zone more than three times in the opening stanza, with the scores remaining locked at nil-all until the 40th minute.
Greens goal kicker Adam Perri, and Bulldogs sharpshooter Alex Weal traded missed penalty goal attempts before Emus hooker Tom Goolagong burrowed his way over on the stroke of half time.
Perri added the extras to give the hosts a 7-nil lead at the break.
The diminutive Emus five-eighth extended the hosts’ lead to 10 with a penalty goal just after half time, before replacement winger Lachie Harris latched onto the end of an opportunistic blind side play to score his side’s second five pointer.
Perri slotted the sideline conversion, giving Emus a 17 point lead with 25 minutes to play.
The scores remained unchanged until the final exchanges, with the visitors having the final say after Peter Fitzsimmons dove on a loose pass from the back of an Emus scrum to secure the Bulldogs’ only points of the game.
“We knew today was going to be really physical,” Emus coach Andrew Logan said.
“If we were to show we have some sort of credentials to figure in the end of the year rugby we really needed a win, and to muscle up. They carry hard, and they carry for 80 minutes.
“I was very happy because we weren’t resorting to dragging them down, we were still getting shoulder on right at the end of the game.”
Johnston lamented a lack of Bulldogs execution, saying the amount of possession the visitors enjoyed should have translated into points.
“We’re struggling for a bit of consistency,” he said.
“We can string it together for 10 minutes, and look great but then we drop off the pace a bit.”
ORANGE EMUS 17 (Tom Goolagong, Lachie Harris tries; Adam Perri 2 conversions, pen goal) def BATHURST BULLDOGS 5 (Peter Fitzsimmons try).