"YEAH that hurts, it does."
That was the sentiment from Bathurst Bulldogs skipper Peter Fitzsimmons after his side suffered a 38-37 loss to the Cowra Eagles in their Blowes Cup clash on Saturday.
The Bulldogs had fought back from a 14-point deficit to lead 37-31 inside the final 10 minutes at Ashwood Park and with both Justin Mobbs and Brad Glasson coming off the bench to make their top grade return from injury, things were looking good.
But from there what looked like a day the Bulldogs would celebrate turned into one of frustration.
Cowra hit the lead with Damian Michaels' second try of the match - a 30-metre effort - with a tick over five minutes remaining.
As the clock wound down Cowra had two players yellow carded, Bulldogs missed a long range penalty goal attempt and finally deep into injury time, the hosts knocked on while hunting for a late winner.
With that error, the final whistle was blown.
"We have to really get stuck into our discipline ... for sure the frustration got to us," Fitzsimmons said.
"We can't keep losing these games which really should be in our book because it is going to hurt us at the end of the season."
Though Fitzsimmons and his team-mates could only rue a one-point loss which denied them third place on the ladder, Eagles captain Bill Cummins was delighted to experience a rare win on Bulldogs' home turf.
"It's been a long time since I've won here and it feels bloody good," the five-eighth said.
"I was really proud of that effort, especially the second half. Our mistakes, our errors piggy-backed them down the field, but to hold them out like we did at the end of the second half was fantastic.
"There was five seconds to go on the clock there when that last scrum was packed and I was still bloody nervous."
Cowra began the match the stronger of the two sides, their scrum monstering Bulldogs.
But by scrum number five the Bathurst pack was able push forward instead of going backwards, the battle for supremacy in that aspect of play continuing throughout.
It was a fortuitous moment which set up the opening try for Cowra when a clearance bounced into the arms of the chasing Navitali Bola. He then popped up a pass to Noah Ryan who ran away down the left to score before nailing his sideline conversion.
When Michaels steamed over in the 18th minute it helped the visitors to a 14-point lead and though Bulldogs responded as winger Adam Plummer muscled his way over, a rolling maul from an attacking line-out which resulted in a Fraser Robertson try made it 21-7 to Cowra.
Cowra knocked-on from the kick off which followed thanks to good pressure from Scott Johnston, then were penalised for coming in from the side at the ruck. That gave Bulldogs attacking position and soon after a nice pass from Sione Naufahu put Phil Tonkin over.
Ryan scored another try which he converted while Will Oldham booted a penalty goal to make it 26-17 to Cowra at the break.
In the second half as they enjoyed some good phase rugby, Bulldogs fought their way back into the contest.
Firstly prop Bailey Warren ran straight over the top of a rival to score then, following Vilikesa Koilagi being yellow carded, Plummer came up with a brilliant off-load to put Johnston over.
Oldham converted both those tries and booted a penalty to make it 34-26.
But Cowra lifted and penalties became more frequent.
Blake Tidswell crossed following an attacking scrum then Michaels scored and Ryan converted to give the Eagles a 38-37 lead which they desperately hung on to.
- COWRA EAGLES 38 (Noah Ryan 2, Damian Michaels 2, Fraser Robertson, Blake Tidswell tries; Noah Ryan 4 conversions) def BATHURST BULLDOGS 37 (Adam Plummer, Phil Tonkin, Bailey Warren, Scott Johnston tries; Will Oldham 4 conversions; Will Oldham 3 penalties)
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