Western Rams under-16 coach Kurt Hancock called for patience following his side’s disappointing and error-riddled 20-6 Country Championship Southern Pool loss to the Bidgee Bulls at Parkes on Saturday.
The Rams, winners in the opening two rounds, struggled to even complete a set at Jock Colley Field and the Bulls capitalised on those mistakes and took the chances on offer from them.
“It is disappointing because we’ve been working so hard,” Hancock said.
“Last week they were a little bit tired and I think the edge was off them today. Coming here the occasion got a bit too much for them too, I think, playing in front of family and friends.
“There’s a few things to learn from it but you’ve got to remember they’re only 16-year-old kids.”
The loss was compounded further by a suspected broken leg to Wellington prop Logan Conn three minutes into the second half after he had earlier crashed over right on half time to give his side a 6-4 lead.
The Rams had started poorly and a stack of errors meant they got through a mountain of defence, but the Bulls were only able to grab the one try early on.
Everything they learnt they forgot about today but that’s a part of the under-16s.
Slowly but surely the Rams, featuring Orange CYMS big bopper Josh Piper and Blayney Bears centre Dylan Marmion, began to work their way back into the match and Conn crashed over from close range to draw level at 4-4.
Raymond Towney added the extras to give the home side the lead but it was a tired Rams side which came out in the second stanza.
Two tries in two minutes from Bidgee midway through the second half proved the killer blow.
“I thought we hung in there really well to get a 6-4 lead at half time but what we dished out in the first half emptied our tank for the second half,” Hancock said.
“The more fatigued we got the more errors we made and the harder we tried the worse we got so it was one of those days.
“I know I’ve got a way better side than that and I think they know that too deep down, that’s why they’re fairly disappointed.
“We had them learning but everything they learnt they forgot about today but that’s a part of the under 16s.”
Dubbo St John’s youngster James Nelson and talented Nyngan half Harry Blake tried as they might but the Rams struggled to create any clear-cut try-scoring opportunities in the second stanza.
Frustration began to creep in and South Dubbo prop Colby Peckham was sent to the sin bin late on for swearing.
Despite the loss, the Western Rams will still head to Bathurst’s Carrington Park next Saturday for the semi-finals after finishing second in the Southern Pool behind the Bulls.
“Sometime a little loss like that can give you a shot in the arm and then away you go again so hopefully that’s the case,” Hancock said.
“We’ll keep going and work hard this week.”