A Fletcher Strong hat-trick during a frenetic first half was key for the Parkes Spacemen during Sunday’s 30-26 win over Dubbo Macquarie.
Strong, who along with Sam Dwyer and Chad Porter backed up after Western Rams duty on Saturday, used his sheer pace in all three of his tries to hand the Spacemen a 26-16 lead at the break.
The second half turned into more of an arm wrestle with both sides making mistakes and leaking tries immediately after scoring but Parkes’ defence held firm late on to ensure the men in red, white and blue start the season two-from-two.
“Any result in Dubbo is a good result for us. We’ve had a lot of losses over here,” Parkes captain-coach Dennis Moran said.
“Coming over and playing Macquarie is always going to be tough so it was a good win. It wasn’t a pleasurable win but a good win.”
Moran was instrumental in his side’s first try just three minutes in, darting from dummyhalf and putting winger Strong away down the right flank for his first.
Zac Rennick and Moran then swapped tries to have Parkes up 10-6 before one of the big moments of the match.
Luke Gale raced 60 metres in his starting debut for Macquarie and produced a stunning leap to avoid a Sam Dwyer tackle but his supporting players got in the way of each other and the ball hit the deck just short of the line.
The ball then ended up with Strong, who raced 90m to score an amazing four-pointer and set up a 16-6 lead.
Macquarie co-coach Steve McLellan confessed that was a big miss for his side.
“They invited us back and we invited them back into the game on too many occasions,” he said.
“The sad part was we could have won that game, we had opportunities but we just didn’t capitalise well enough.
“But the killer was when we fell over each other when we were about to score and that was a 12-point turnaround really.”
Macquarie did show fight after the blow of Strong’s try, scoring through Zac Rennick and a hard-running Gale before the break but every time they did go over Parkes seemed to hit straight back.
Strong sealed his hat-trick eight minutes from half time when beating Raiders defenders to a Moran grubber and then Alex Prout scored next to the sticks right on the bell to set up a 10-point lead.
Macquarie scored eight minutes into the second stanza through Ash Widders after forcing a repeat set but Parkes hit back almost immediately again through winger Brandon Paige.
Parkes’ eight point margin only last three minutes as a Quentin Dickinson try got Macquarie back within four points but that was as close as they got.
Dwyer was outstanding at the back all match for Parkes while Jack Medlyn was immense up front.
“The three (Western players) all did their job which was pleasing,” Moran said, adding he was hopeful his side would go into next weekend’s match with CYMS with momentum.
“We’re trying to focus on the positives. There’s a lot of negatives but we’ll work on the positives.”
There was positives for Macquarie’s McLellan and fellow co-coach Rennick, with the side now facing another huge test in the shape of Forbes next weekend.
Eroni Turaga was strong up front but did battle a number of niggling injuries during the match while debutants Gale and big man Kepu Nathan, who produced a huge hit which brought groans from the crowd during the second half, also showed plenty of promise.
“Lukey was great and Kepu off the bench showed he’ll be a real plus for us,” McLellan said.
“They were good, Matty Lane at number nine worked so hard and was creative but if you look back some of their tries were just long range.”
PARKES SPACEMEN 30 (Fletcher Strong 3, Dennis Moran, Alex Prout, Brandon Paige tries; Luke Clarke 2, Chad Porter goal) defeated DUBBO MACQUARIE 26 (Zac Rennick 2, Luke Gale, Ash Widders, Quentin Dickinson tries; Willie Wright 3 goals)