That was the simple message Bathurst Bulldogs coach Nathan Pearce offered his Orange Emus counterpart, Paul Ringland, after full-time at Anne Ashwood Park on Saturday afternoon.
Spot on really, considering Emus had just posted a 29-15 over Bulldogs – considered the greens’ biggest competition for the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup title at the moment – to remain unbeaten at the halfway point of the season.
Emus’ speed at the breakdown impressed, so too their defence as the greens kept the hosts to just two five-pointers.
One of those was a consolation try too, which came with just four seconds remaining on the clock.
Even with Emus’ defensive hitman Nick Hughes-Clapp in the sin-bin in the second half, Bulldogs couldn’t add to their score.
And yet, Pearce was still overwhelmingly optimistic following the defeat – his side’s second of the season.
“That’s the closest anyone has got [to Emus] … now we know where we’re at,” he said.
“I counted four line breaks in that first half and we just didn’t capitalise, that’s a credit to Emus, they really did adjust well.
“They’re a quality side, it shows if you look at their record.
“But after the game the boys were talking and they know they’ve got [what it takes].
“We should, hopefully, get three more cracks at them.”
Emus applied pressure early and reaped the rewards at the eight-minute mark, with gun winger Levi Russell grabbing the first of two tries he scored. Skipper Nigel Staniforth added the extras, giving his side a 7-0 lead.
Bulldogs lifted after that early lapse though, probing and camping inside Emus’ 22.
Adam Geal looked likely after latching onto a crisp Peter Fitzsimmons cut-out ball, but – not for the last time – was dragged down with the try-line in sight.
From that defence, came offence for Emus. After demonstrating exactly why they have the best defensive record in the competition, the greens promptly swung momentum and scored through evergreen prop Al Hattersley.
He picked up a great offload form five-eighth AJ Sykes, who found some space.
Bulldogs responded with another flurry of attacking raids and finally, 27 minutes in, cracked Emus. Fitzsimmons dove over, although Josh Weekes – making his top grade debut – was unable to add the extras.
He missed a penalty goal attempt eight out from half-time too, leaving a couple more points out there, and neither side added to the 14-5 tally before the break.
The nine-point deficit certainly gave Bulldogs some hope, but the job was made supremely tougher when Emus halfback Sam Green scored his first try of the season in the 45th minute.
A Weekes penalty made it 19-8 soon after, and the Bathurst side was handed a huge, 10-minute opportunity to stamp its authority on the game when Hughes-Clapp was shown the cheese.
Instead, Bulldogs put their kick from touch from the resulting penalty dead in-goal and Staniforth nailed a penalty not long after, extending his side’s lead to 14 points.
Russell scored his second with 13 minutes to go, sealing Emus’ bonus point win.
Sam Roberson, tenacious at inside centre, scored for Bulldogs in the dying stages, Weekes converting to make the final score 29-15.
Ringland was a little unhappy to concede that try, but was pleased nonetheless.
“That was very disappointing, but to come away (from Bulldogs) with a bonus point win, I’m very happy with that,” he said.
“They believed that they could win, Bathurst played like they thought they could, but we were good enough to turn them around and get the win.”
With nine bonus point wins from as many games this season, Emus are on track to add to their 2015 and 2016 titles – in style too.
Ringland’s not buying into that chat though.
“There’s a long way to go in the journey and we’re not going to get too carried away. A lot of teams are going to be a lot different come the second time we play them,” he said.
- ORANGE EMUS 29 (Levi Russell 2, Sam Green, Al Hattersley tries; Nigel Staniforth 3 conversions, penalty goal) def BATHURST BULLDOGS 15 (Sam Roberson, Peter Fitzsimmons tries; Josh Weekes conversion, penalty goal)