Western Rams under-18s coach Cameron Greenhalgh finally got the Country Championships performance he wanted on Saturday when his side ran out convincing 24-4 winners over the Bidgee Bulls.
Despite heading to Parkes’ Jock Colley Field on the back of two wins, Greenhalgh was yet to see his side put it all together.
But, on the back of a powerful performance up front and another classy showing from Brock Naden and Dubbo CYMS halves Matt Burton and Bayden Searle, the Rams controlled the match for virtually the entire 80 minutes and wrapped up top spot in the Southern Pool.
“We wanted to play a bit more direct and we did that today so next week we might keep the (semi-final opponent) coaches guessing about how we’re going to play the next game,” he said, with the Rams playing off for a grand final spot at Bathurst next Saturday.
“Whether we play wide or through the middle, we can cover both areas which is pleasing.”
Key to the Rams’ success was the start to each half.
Greenhalgh’s men started with real speed and were rewarded on eight minutes when Orange CYMS centre Craig Tarr finished off a sweeping left-to-right move.
The match turned into an arm wrestle for a period of time but approaching the break Luke Gale won the race to plant down a pinpoint Burton grubber to set up an 8-0 half time lead.
Nine minutes into the second stanza the Rams were in again when Burton ran a slick play off a scrum that resulted in winger Farren Lamb crossing.
“We worked on that during the weeks, our starts, and it has to be good,” Greenhalgh said after the match.
“These Championships footy games, if you get a bad start in the first 10 or 15 minutes then usually that half is gone so we’ve really been concentrating on being the best side for the first 10-15 minutes of both halves.”
Bidgee got on the board shortly after Will Mannion reacted fastest when a grubber bounced around a number of players but the Rams were soon back on top.
Captain Darby Medlyn, inspirational in attack and defence, produced a neat offload 15m out which resulted in Searle crashing over and the match was wrapped up when hooker Jaiden Burke darted over.
“It was a tough battle for a long time but we played some good, tough footy,” Greenhalgh said.
“Defensively down on our own line we were excellent. They scored one try where a kick bounced off one of our legs so it was a lucky try.
“I’m really happy with the way the defence is going at the moment, that’s what is getting us the points.”
The semi-finals are yet to be finalised with the Northern Pool matches between the Central Coast Roosters and Newcastle Rebels having not yet been played due to ground closures.