A TWENTY-two point second half blitz has kept the under 18 Western Rams in the hunt for the Laurie Daley Cup finals, the green and whites downing the Greater Southern Region Tigers 26-16 at King George Oval on Sunday.
Poor handling and poor discipline contributed to the Rams finding themselves 10-4 down after the first half in Blayney, but in the second stanza the hosts improved those areas markedly.
With skipper, Forbes second rower Jack Hartwig, along with Lachlan Large and Finnley Neilsen making good yards up the middle of the ruck and Jack O'Neill steering play nicely from dummy-half, the Rams surged back into the contest.
They scored 22 points in 18 minutes to take out the round four clash.
"We had a yarn at half-time about how we needed to fix up our loose ends and lose all those crappy penalties and we did that, we tidied ourselves up and came through in the end," Hartwig, who took a mountain of carries, said.
"It makes it very hard when you're backing up on D sets, so it was handy having the ball for most of that second half. We got our energy back, got our second wind."
The Rams made an impressive start to the match as Cody Lawson crossed in the left corner after just 70 seconds, the winger capitalising on a smart run from fullback Braye Porter.
But just as it was a Tigers knock-on which gifted the Rams that early chance, Western's handling errors helped their rivals back into the contest.
The Tigers crossed in the 10th minute via Jay Kirk and when Tyreece-Rea Milford stepped his way over soon after, the visitors had the lead at 10-4. Both tries cams on the back of Rams knock-ons.
That's one of our strengths in our team, we have a really strong forward pack.Rams skipper Jack Hartwig
The final 10 minutes of the half the Rams spent camped in the Tigers' territory - they even forced a line drop out. But a combination of errors and good online defence from the visitors saw no further change to the score.
However, three minutes into the second half, the momentum swung. Running hard and straight up the middle of the ruck before probing out wide - as well as a better completion rate - saw the hosts take control.
Cody Crisp, Porter and prop Thomas Phillips all crossed and when Hartwig - who was a standout - burst through a tackle then shrugged off the cover defence to score a well deserved try under the sticks, it was game over.
Lawson added the extras to make it 26-10 and while the Tigers scored a late consolation, the Rams had done enough to make it two wins in a row and climb into seventh on the ladder.
If the Rams are to further improve that position, Hartwig believes that the forward pack will be crucial.
"That's one of our strengths in our team, we have a really strong forward pack. Don't get me wrong, we are strong all over the park, but we have a strong forward pack," Hartwig said.
"Sometimes we don't really use that to our advantage, but today, in that second half we really used it.
"It absolutely keeps us in contention for the finals and that's our end goal, hopefully to bring it home. All the boys are in the right mind-space for that goal, so hopefully we can keep winning."
The Rams will next meet the competition leading Illawarra South Coast Dragons.
- WESTERN RAMS 26 (Cody Crisp, Jack Hartwig, Cody Lawson, Braye Porter, Thomas Phillips tries; Cody Lawson 3 goals) defeated GREATER SOUTHERN REGION TIGERS 16 (Jay Kirk, Tyreece-Rea Milford, Braydon Wickey; Luke Cowley 2 goals)
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