DUNGOWAN Cowboys are licking their wounds this week following a brutal 24-20 loss at Kootingal last week.
The loss and Barraba’s big win over Manilla saw the two clubs swap places on the ladder and set up a potential two- game showdown between the pair.
The match-up has Kootingal Roosters licking their lips, four points clear at the top of the table.
Cowboys halfback Matt Wilson said the game against Kooty was probably the club’s worst this season.
“We started too slowly and weren’t getting numbers in tackles to slow the ball down,” Wilson said.
“We didn’t score any points until we were both down to nine players.”
The Cowboys hope to bounce back this weekend as they host a battling Manilla.
Following that game, the Cowboys will play Boggabri, have the bye, then Werris Creek and the final-round game against premiers Barraba.
If neither side drops another game, they will finish second and third and play each other in the first week of the finals.
That means the last-round game between the two could decide where they play the following week.
“To play Barraba two weeks in a row and keep going is a big ask,” Wilson said.
Despite the ladder, the pivot still rates the Bulldogs as the best team in the comp.
“They are the benchmark.”
“I think Kooty were at their best on the weekend and we were at our worst.”
In his second year at the club since finishing uni and leaving South Newcastle RLFC, the Peel High teacher believes the Cowboys can win the Shield.
“When we play well it is a full team effort,” Wilson said.
“I am loving the club – we get great crowds and it is a real family club.”
It certainly is a team of brothers, with the Wilsons two of several siblings on the books.
Todd Wilson has burst back on the scene this year after five years of retirement.
Todd’s first game back was a tough win against Barraba in round nine and the lock has been improving with every run.
“Todd and Clint Ridley can lead the way in the pack,” Wilson said.
“When they get going forward we are a strong side.”
Kootingal will travel to Boggabri looking to continue an unbeaten season and also prepare for the finals.
Boggabri, on the other hand, will be throwing everything at the Roosters, needing to win every game from here in after getting undone by Bendemeer a fortnight ago.
The other match will see two more sides who need to win every game, for different reasons.
Barraba wants a home final and Walcha just wants a finals appearance, with both sides needing a win to achieve those goals.