Dubbo Kangaroos came to Endeavour Oval determined to blow out the candles on Orange Emus’ 70th birthday celebrations but in the end they huffed and they puffed and nothing moved.
The Emus remain the unbeaten leader of the Blowes Clothing Cup ladder after a dominant performance against the now fourth-placed Roos.
The final score was 38-15 but it could have been a whole lot more.
Emus’ captain and goalkicker Nigel Staniforth came off the ground with a quad injury late in the first half and without him no more tries were converted.
With so much at stake, with Endeavour Oval full of old boys keen to celebrate the 70th anniversary with a win and Roos keen to take a really big scalp, it was Emus who started best with two penalty goals from Staniforth to skip away to a 6-0 lead in the first five minutes.
But the Roos bounced back with a try from Eli Kinscher – who was magnificent in the beaten side – against the run of play to be just 6-5 down after nine minutes.
But by the time Kinscher scored Dubbo’s next points, his second try, it was midway through the second half and the game was well and truly gone trailing 33-10.
Critical errors from the Roos players, largely under immense pressure from Emus’ forward pack, saw them keep turning the ball over to the greens, who made them pay.
Levi Russell scored a try at the 17-minute mark and Mitch Evers followed three minutes later as the game began to slip from Dubbo’s grasp.
Their cause wasn’t helped when an error right on half-time led to Rob Thorburn scoring Emus’ third try right on the bell.
It came after a great passage of play culminating in a searching kick for touch that brought the Emus within a few metres of the line.
The start of the second half was tight until the Emus got an overlap just on seven minutes and Tom Green scored out wide to blow the score to 28-5.
Carter Hirini added another near the posts after a clever series of passes and Dubbo finally scored its second try almost straight from the kick-off.
A late try to Nick Hughes-Clapp looked like being the last of the game but Sam Clements scored Dubbo’s third try in the last second.
Staniforth said it was a great result even though he copped the injury.
“My quad just kind of pulled up a bit so unfortunately it was no good for a little while, so I’ll just have a rest and get back into it,” he said.
“We stuck to it and tried to control the game as much as possible.
“I’m very proud of the boys today. We had a few guys stepping up in first grade and they did very well and our bench came on right at the end there and finished it off.”
Staniforth said there was no reason to panic when Dubbo’s first try brought the score to within a point early on.
“I thought that try was a bit of an opportunist try, so we just had to stick with it and just had to control it as much as possible and we eventually got there.”
He said Emus controlled the play up the middle and out wide.
“I just think overall we’re quite lucky we’ve got a pretty balanced team so if we don’t go wide we can hopefully go through teams so we just try to pick out their weaknesses,” he explained.
And he is not worried about the ever-growing target on their backs now as the reigning premiers remain undefeated.
“That’s fine, that’s enjoyable, you want to be chased after, you want people to try to knock you off and you keep rolling with it and you see how you go,” he said.
Dubbo co-coach Mark Stanford said their errors were crucial, particularly in the first half.
“I think the Emus they dominated the defence at the contact and then they dominated the breakdown, so that’s where it was won and lost,” he said.
“We were a bit sort of patchy.
“We got the ball and we gave it back to them too much.
“We had 10 turnovers in the first half and five of those were inside our 22 so you can’t give the ball back to them 10 times in a half and five in your 22 and be surprised at 23-5 at half time.
“If they’d have given us the ball 10 times we’d have had them down 23-5.”
However, he said there was still plenty to play for this year and expected the team would bounce back.
- ORANGE EMUS 38 (Levi Russell, Mitch Evers, Tom Green, Carter Hirini, Nick Hughes-Clapp tries; Nigel Staniforth conversion, 2 penalty goals) def DUBBO KANGAROOS 15 (Eli Kinscher 2, Sam Clements tries)