BATHURST Bulldogs have had their chance of a Blowes Clothing Cup top three finish crippled after going down to hosts Forbes Platypi on Saturday.
Bulldogs were on track to get their revenge over Forbes, as they carried the lead into half-time, but were held scoreless after the break to go down 24-13.
Both teams traded penalties early in the game before the Bulldogs took a 10-3 lead.
Forbes were able to respond with a try of their own before the Bulldogs edged clear in a tight tussle thanks to another penalty.
A broken rib for Bulldogs half Josh Oxley sapped the spirit out of the visitors’ game and the Platypi began to find some rhythm.
The error count began to pile up for the Bulldogs after half-time and the Platypi didn’t squander their chances to hit back.
“We played well in patches but we didn’t maintain possession. We weren’t executing and it cost us,” Bulldogs co-coach Nathan Pearce said.
“We knocked on at untimely moments, weren’t throwing lineouts straight and our penalties weren’t finding touch.
“Those are the sorts of things we get right 99 per cent of the time, and the disappointing thing is that it was some of our more experienced players making the mistakes.
“Our guys certainly tried hard but you can’t win games like that.”
The game finished with an almost identical margin to the 27-17 win Forbes picked up at Ashwood Park in the clubs’ June meeting.
Coincidentally, the Bulldogs were also held scoreless in the second half of that match after leading 17-9 at the break.
“There’s no doubt losing Josh Oxley was a big moment for us. He was outscoring Mahe Fangupo before the break, which is a big achievement,” Pearce said.
“I thought Alex Weal put his hand up for us. Izaak Breen, even though he had a few knock ons, probably had his best game of the season.
“Sam Roberson was incredible. When our outside backs got the ball they looked strong but they probably weren’t getting the ball enough.”
There is a minuscule chance Bulldogs can sneak into the top three in this Saturday’s final round.
It would require not only an upset against unbeaten competition leaders Orange Emus but the scenario also needs the Cowra Eagles to knock over the Dubbo Kangaroos.
“If we want to get our season back on track then we need to roll the Emus. While the game won’t count for much on the ladder it’s going to be an important game for us psychologically,” Pearce said.
“It will be interesting to see how well we’re going to be able to hit back.”