Western Rams under-16s coach Kurt Hancock has called for patience following his side’s disappointing and error-filled 20-6 Country Championships Southern Pool loss to the Bidgee Bulls at Parkes on Saturday.
The Rams, winners in the opening two rounds, struggled to even complete a set at Jock Colley Field and the Bulls capitalised on those mistakes and took the chances were offered.
“It is disappointing because we’ve been working so hard,” Hancock said.
“Last week they were a little bit tired and I think the edge was off them today. Coming here the occasion got a bit too much for them too, I think, playing in front of family and friends.
“There’s a few things to learn from it but you’ve got to remember they’re only 16 years old kids.”
The loss was compounded further by a suspected broken leg to Wellington prop Logan Conn three minutes into the second half after he had earlier crashed over right on half time to give his side a 6-4 lead.
The Rams had started poorly and a stack of errors meant they got through a mountain of defence, but the Bulls were only able to grab the one try early on.
Slowly but surely the Rams, featuring five Dubbo-based players, began to work back into the match and Conn crashed over from close range to even it.
Raymond Towney added the extras to give the home side the lead but it was a tired Rams side which came out in the second stanza.
Two tries in two minutes from Bidgee midway through the second half proved the killer blow.
Everything they learnt they forgot about today but that’s a part of the under-16s.
“I thought we hung in there really well to get a 6-4 lead at half time but what we dished out in the first half emptied our tank for the second half,” Hancock said.
“The more fatigued we got the more errors we made and the harder we tried the worse we got so it was one of those days but I’ll have a talk to the boys and the old saying is a week is a long time in rugby league and I know I’ve got a way better side than that and I think they know that too deep down, that’s why they’re fairly disappointed.
“We had them learning but everything they learnt they forgot about today but that’s a part of the under-16s.”
St John’s youngster James ‘Busta’ Nelson and talented Nyngan number seven Harry Blake tried as they might but the Rams struggled to create any clear-cut try-scoring opportunities in the second stanza.
Frustration began to creep in and South Dubbo prop Colby Peckham was sent to the sin bin late on for swearing.
Despite the loss, the Western Rams will still head to Bathurst’s Carrington Park next Saturday for the semi-finals after finishing second in the Southern Pool behind the Bulls.
“Sometime a little loss like that can give you a shot in the arm and then away you go again so hopefully that’s the case,” Hancock said.
“We’ll keep going and work hard this week and see what they dish out at Bathurst.”
The semi-finals are yet to be finalised with the Northern Pool matches between the Central Coast Roosters and Newcastle Rebels having not yet been played due to ground closures.
BIDGEE BULLS 20 Zane Bijorac 2, Jeremy Winscombe, Jack Elphick tries; Kody Collins, Ryan Dodson goals) defeated WESTERN RAMS 6 (Logan Conn try, Raymond Towney goal)