Walcha produced a late surge at Weebolla Oval on Saturday to topple competition leaders Moree and underline their premiership credentials.
The Rams crossed twice in the last 10 minutes to score a gritty 32-21 win.
It’s the second time this season the Rams have beaten the side sitting in top of the table at the time, but they had to work hard for the points.
“It was a pretty solid battle across the park. Nothing less than you’d expect,” Walcha co-coach Barry Hoy said.
Playing with a strong breeze behind them in the first half the Rams started pretty strongly, he said.
They held the ball for the better part of the first 20-25 minutes and raced out to a 20-7 lead at half-time.
“We played pretty well (in the first half),” Hoy said.
But, turning into the wind, he knew they were in for a tough second half.
“We knew we’d have to work pretty hard in the second half and it panned out that way,” he said.
“They held the ball for probably the first 25-30 minutes.”
The pressure from the Bulls was relentless and saw them charge to a 21-20 lead.
With around 10 minutes to go the Rams were able to get a bit of consistent possession and earned a penalty.
Rather than attempt a tough kick into the wind they opted for the line. It paid off, scoring to reclaim the lead.
Replacement back Charlie Keen then scored right on full-time to seal the victory.
The corresponding game in the first round was defined by defence, and as much as the Bulls’ defence earned them the points then, Hoy said the Rams defence got them the win on Saturday.
He had said heading into the game if they came away with the points they’d be pretty happy.
Keen’s late try earned them the maximum.
“To pick up a bonus point was marvelous,” Hoy said.
It keeps the Rams ahead of Narrabri in third, and means their finals destiny is in their hands.
Bucking the usual trend, Keen was the only back to find the tryline with the forwards earning the rest of the plaudits. It reflected a good performance from the pack, although the scrum struggled a bit compared to how strong it has been.
The loss was only the Bulls second of the season.
“They were pretty tough, which was expected,” Bulls co-coach Peter Copeman said.
“They always seem to come good at this time of the year; they did the same thing last year.
“Their defence was good.
“With 10 [minutes] to go, we were leading 21-20 but I think we relaxed a little or took the pressure off and they scored one try and then scored one right on the bell.
“The game was closer than the score suggests.”
Copeman said his side let too many first-up passes drop and made a few too many silly mistakes.
“You can’t do that against these sides,” he said.
The Bulls were also missing a few key players which Copeman said showed.
“We lacked a bit of finishing speed,” he said.
With 10 [minutes] to go, we were leading 21-20 but I think we relaxed a little or took the pressure off and they scored one try and then scored one right on the bell.- Peter Copeman, Moree Bulls first grade coach
“The guys there played well though.
“[Walcha] has three country players in their back-line but we contained them pretty well.
“Our scrum was good, our line-up was up and down.”
Matt Wannan was the Bulls’ standout player, receiving three points. Heath Riggs, Dan Coulthurst, Jaime Sampson, Ben Williams and Tim Cassegrain (coming off the bench) also played well.
The loss sees Moree drop back down to second place on the first grade ladder, now four points behind Pirates who reclaimed top spot after a 40-19 win against Scone on Saturday.
“This might have shot our chances of getting a major semi-final,” Copeman said.
“[If we want to get back on top] we’ve got to win with the bonus points and they’ve got to lose.”