A DEPLETED Gunnedah Bulldogs produced one of their finest Group 4 first grade wins when the Shane Rampling-coached side came from a half-time deficit to beat reigning premiers West Lions 42-38 at Kitchener Park on Saturday.
The win has now set the scene for an even bigger confrontation with competition favourites North Tamworth Bears at Kitchener next Sunday.
For Gunnedah coach Shane Rampling, Saturday’s four- point victory was a “massive win”.
“The amount of players we had out we went in thinking we’d have to dig deep.
“But we got the win.
“ I couldn’t be more proud of them all.”
Regular first graders Tyler Flemming, Trent Hilton, Jason Smith, Toby Morris, Jordy Ford, Mark Sankey and DJ Smith were all injured.
It didn’t look good for the side, especially when the Lions led 18-14 at halftime and then scored another try straight after the break.
“We were under the pump early in the second half,” Rampling said.
“We were down 18-14 at half-time and then they scored just after the break.
“We could have laid down and felt sorry for ourselves but they all dug deep and came back, scored two quick tries and were right back in it.
“The boys defended so well and got back into it.
“They stepped up and got the result.
“It’s going to be hard now for the boys who were missing to get back in.”
“And that makes it a fair bit of competition for a spot.
“It makes them train harder and play better.”
The Bulldogs had plenty of outstanding performers.
None was better than fullback Aaron Donnelly, who scored a try and was always dangerous.
Halfback Matt Brady was another to excel.
“He’s a special player,” Rampling said.
“When he takes the line on he’s so dangerous.
“He led around the park and timed his runs perfectly.
“He knew when to take the line on and when not.”
Steven Yorkshire, Adam Mooney and Brady all bagged a brace of tries as did West Lions winger Dylan Lake, second-rower Tom Hine and captain-coach Chris Hunt.
“Chris (Hunt) was their go-to man,” Rampling said.
“He was very dangerous at times but I thought we controlled him pretty well and shut him down fairly well.”