Central West produced surprisingly powerful performances at Christchurch's Ilam Fields on Wednesday night to do what their Wallabies counterparts haven't been able to since August 11, 2001 - beat the Kiwis on their home soil.
Although that comparison may be a stretch considering the Blue Bulls faced University of Canterbury rather than the all-conquering All Blacks, Central West head coach Dean Oxley said he couldn't help but get excited after watching his troops storm home in their first legitimate hit-outs together.
Central West's women won 17-10 and the men's Gold side prevailed 31-5 and the men's Blue side, led by doubles from Orange Emus' Lachie Harris and Bathurst Bulldogs' Peter Fitzsimmons, romped home 55-7 to complete what Oxley called the "perfect start" to their country week preparations.
"It does feel like we've started building something with these wins because while there's a lot of good players not on this tour, plenty of guys really stuck their hands up against University of Canterbury," he said.
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"We had two or three good days together beforehand and, in the men's games, the feeling around the group on the field was similar to when we beat Newcastle-Hunter at [the 2018 NSW Country Rugby Union Championships]."
After a visit to Crusaders HQ, breakfast with a handful of All Blacks and Black Ferns and a number of training sessions, Oxley said defence had become Central West's focus for the opening games, and the three sides delivered.
Across 240 minutes, the Central West sides conceded just 22 points.
"I knew we could attack, we've got a lot of exciting players, but I've never been involved in a Blue Bulls side that's really imposed itself in games defensively and if we can make that uncompromising defence our brand, our tag, it will go a long way," Oxley said.
CSU Bathurst's Claire Woolmington scored a double for the women and was impressive as usual, while Narromine five-eighth George Hancock and Bulldogs flanker Harry Peacock were among the Gold outfit's best.
Harris, Forbes five-eighth Mahe Fangupo, Bulldogs second-rower Justin Mobbs and Harden No.8 Aaron Seaman all shone for the Blue side, while Oxley said he was also impressed with Dubbo Kangaroos' second-rower and skipper Shaun McHugh.
"He was given the captaincy based on the way he spoke around the group, and led the group, leading in. He continued that on the field," Oxley said, before lauding his halves pairing of Harden's Shahid Khalfan and Forbes' Mahe Fangupo too.
"Having Shahid Khalfan at halfback too, he fed Mahe really well and they actually turned us into a completely different beast in a way and that looks a really positive thing moving forward."
The group's on-field focus now shifts to their second lot of games on Saturday afternoon against Prebbleton, although a number of injuries are a concern.
Emus' Sam Greatbatch, Narromine's Mitch Rixon, Grenfell's Matt Randall and Forbes' Nathan Langilangi are all expected to miss the clash while Temora prop Matt Fuller is in doubt too, all picking up injuries against University of Canterbury
"Prebbleton is supposed to be a harder game and there is a few injury concerns, but we'll set our targets and continue to move forward. Still not worried about the result it's about the attitude," Oxley said.
"I was really impressde with that [on Wednesday night], they brought a fresh side on at half-time (of the second game) but we didn't miss a beat and that's what I'm looking for again."
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