Game plan – that was the talking point for the coaches of Bathurst Bulldogs and Dubbo Kangaroos on Saturday afternoon at Ashwood Park following their Blowes Clothing Cup match.
For Bulldogs mentor Nathan Pearce, whose side won 30-15, it was about sticking to the game plan in the second half.
But in the case of ’Roos coach Dean Matthews, who had watched his men let a 15-3 half-time lead slip, he felt straying from set tactics was what cost his side.
“I think that we just went away from our game plan, that’s all, so just a bit of structural discipline desired next week,” Matthews said.
“We’ve had a few positional changes and it’s a long trip to Bathurst, it’s always tough. We’ve got a young team and a lot of new guys and we’re just working through it – this was our benchmark game.
“We know where we are at now, we know what we need to do to win.”
It was the visitors – who were looking to leapfrog the undefeated Bulldogs into second on the ladder – who opened scoring in the ninth minute on Saturday as Hamish Gordon slotted a penalty.
Gordon increased the lead on 15 minutes when he scored in the right corner, some smart footwork from centre Viliame Turuva creating the overlap.
Four minutes later Bulldogs got on the board via a Brad Glasson penalty, the fullback making amends for missing an earlier attempt to put the score at 8-3.
Though the backs had been responsible for the points in the opening quarter of the match, the real contest came in the forwards.
Both packs managed to pilfer ball at the breakdown, draw penalties from their rivals and more than once, win line-out ball against the feed.
Four minutes out from the break ’Roos hooker Ned Williams charged down the left wing before finding winger James Mata in support. He ran away to score under the sticks, with Gordon’s conversion making it 15-3 at half-time.
But that kick was to be the last points of the contest for the ’Roos.
Ten minutes after the resumption Scott Johnson forced his way over next to the sticks and shortly after Adam Geal crossed. Glasson converted both to give Bulldogs a 17-15 lead.
Glasson booted a penalty to make it 20-15 with just over an hour of play gone, before Bulldogs’ defence was called into action.
’Roos were twice held up over the line when attempting to drive over from an attacking line-out, before being gifted a one-man advantage when Bulldogs prop Chris Plunkett was yellow carded.
However, with 14 men Bulldogs managed to repel ’Roos.
The hosts then got out of their half, and Glasson kicked a penalty before scoring and converting a try to complete an impressive comeback win.
“Well I swore a lot. I just told them to get back to what we do,” Pearce said of his half-time address. “I think we were engaged a bit in a bit of chatter, so I told them to go back to basics. We haven’t got a very complicated game plan.
“Yeah we’ve got a bit of work to do in terms of tightening up that ball. I think we were trying to play fast ball instead of safe ball. But to be 27-0 in that second half, that was pleasing.”