The North West Bushrangers scraped home for a one-point win over Far North Coast in their Richardson Shield play-off at Warren on Sunday to finish their NSW Country Championship campaign on a positive note.
The combined Central North/New England side were given a late scare with the Dolphins scoring after the bell and having a kick from the sideline to win. But it was unsuccessful and the Bushrangers prevailed 23-22.
Close games were somewhat the order of the weekend for the Bushrangers, whose silverware hopes had been quashed by Western Plains 31-26 on Saturday.
In a see-sawing contest the Bushrangers led with about 10 minutes to go, but a fortuitous try to the home side – scooping up a loose ball that had spurted out of the ruck – saw them reclaim the lead after holding a 19-5 advantage at half-time.
The Bushrangers were pressuring the Plainsmen’s line in the last few minutes searching for an equaliser, and came close on a couple of occasions but couldn’t get the ball down over the line.
“We were held up a couple of times,” coach Andrew Collins said.
He was disappointed by the result but encouraged by the way they dug in two tries down and worked for each other, especially given they haven’t had any time together.
That hurt them in the end.
“Our scrum dominated and our scoring potential was good,” he said.
“It was just our defence and our chat in defence.”
That was a lot better on Sunday, the late try coming while they were down to 14 after Jake Hartmann was yellow-carded.
Their defence was one of the things that stood out for Collins.
“We just defended and defended,” he said.
They were a bit the walking wounded come full-time on Sunday after losing Andrew Mepham early on Saturday to a bicep injury. Lachlan Mack didn’t play either, and Will Morley and Joe Hinchey both suffering injuries and forcing a “fair reshuffle”.
Morley was one of their best on Saturday, his kicking game from five-eighth getting them out of trouble on a few occasions.
Conrad Starr and Jack Shelton also had strong games, while Tom Mellor did a good job coming on for Mepham.
Collins also made mention of Mellor in the Far North Coast game.
The Central North women meanwhile had a great weekend in the seven’s championships finishing third overall.
Turning around 13-point loss to Central West on Saturday, the Dale Beattie-coached side beat the defending champions 7-5 in the Plate final on Sunday.
They had earlier lost their semi-final against eventual champions Hunter 17-5 in what proved to be a tighter contest than the final.
On Saturday they beat Central Coast 17-15 and Western Plains 32-nil before falling to Central West 20-7.
New England had a tougher day suffering losses to Mid North Coast 25-5 and Hunter 37-5.
Central North vice-president Jenny Middlemiss said it was a fabulous weekend.
“It was so well organised the women’s side and the men’s side,” she said.
“The whole Warren community deserve a pat on the back.”