The Wellington Cowboys are back in finals contention after a 14-point win over the Westside Rabbitohs at Kennard Park on Sunday.
Round 10 results fell in the Cowboys’ favour as Forbes defeated Macquarie (22-12), and Nyngan defeated Narromine (26-16) to put Wellington within one point of fifth position.
Captain-coach Aidan Ryan welcomed the win on the back of a five-game losing streak, however said his side must improve in discipline and defence if they are to reach the semis.
The Cowboys were first to put points on the board when young gun Brian Baxter breezed across the line five minutes in following a knock-on by Westside.
Lewis Stanley converted the try in his first game back from injury, 6-nil.
Ten minutes later Seven Matherson strengthened Wellington’s lead, 12-nil.
Westside took advantage of the Cowboys who were left a man down when Ryan got 10 in the bin.
They popped two quick tries on the hosts to lock the score at 12-all.
A try by Wellington’s Will Towney off a high ball put the boys in maroon ahead, converted by Stanley 18-12.
The lead was short lived as Westside scored under the posts following scrappy play by the Cowboys, 18-all.
Westside took the lead for the first time with eight minutes remaining, however a break from halfway saw Kenny Everson offload to Norm West who scored under the posts.
Halftime score, 24-all.
Nathan Stewart broke the deadlock in second half, followed by a try to Ryan who extended Wellington’s lead to 36-24.
The points kept on coming for the Cowboys as Will Lousick scored on the 25 minute mark, 42-24.
Westside’s Sam Coe responded with a run-away try, followed by another as Dubbo split Wellington’s defence to take the score to 42-36.
Jake Tolhurst and Shannon Ireland scored a try each for the Cowboys in the dying minutes of the game, taking the score to 50-36.
Ryan said he had confidence in the Cowboys to bring home a win.
“I wasn’t really worried when Westside hit the lead, I knew we always had the fitness to beat them but just the attitude...” he said.
“To let a team score 36 points is just pretty disgraceful to be honest, especially considering we were nearly at full strength.”
Ryan said Stanley had a big impact in his return game, as did Brogan Black and Baxter.
“Lewis is pretty influential to the blokes, a lot of them look up to him and he really took charge of the team and led us around,” Ryan said.
“Brogan played a full game of Reserve Grade with a few of us boys so to back-up and play another 80 minutes was pretty good.
“Young Brian Baxter on wing had some good runs – we just need to get his confidence up and he will definitely be a very good footballer in the future.”
Wellington will host Narromine at Kennard Park this week in a must-win game for the Cowboys. Last time the teams met in Round 4 Wellington won 34-28.
“We know what to expect but being at home should be to our advantage and I think we can roll them,” Ryan said.
“Our most crucial game will be when we verse Macquarie in three weeks time which will determine the top five for the year.”