Western coach Paul McDonald admits his side will be playing must-win footy over the remaining two rounds of the Laurie Daley Cup after a tough round three loss to the Illawarra South Coast Dragons on Saturday.
Played at Wollongong, the hosts built a handy lead before the Rams crossed for two late tries, rounding out the 26-20 result – both sides crossed for four tries.
The loss dips the Rams to equal third on the 2018 under 18s country championship standings, meaning wins in both the penultimate round clash with Monaro and then the GSR Wests Tigers in the final round are essential to guarantee a spot in the southern pool’s top two and a place in the finals.
McDonald said both skipper Luke Bain and gun fullback Benji Glasheen were tremendous for Western but lapses in concentration hurt the travelling Rams at key stages of the match.
“The game came down to three major errors that led to tries and a five-minute patch where we lacked direction and go forward,” McDonald said.
“We scored the last two tries of the game. When we play simply and direct we go well.”
Despite the loss, McDonald was confident Western is still capable of making the finals – the six-point defeat was the Rams’ first of the championship, after an opening round draw with Penrith and a win over Riverina at Forbes the following week.
McDonald’s focus has always been on developing this group of Western players – a large chunk of the group is only 17 - but he said the closeness of the Daley Cup meant the Rams can still qualify for the finals.
And that’s the Rams’ goal right now – playing finals footy.
“It’s always about getting better and improving, but wins along the way are nice as well. If we win (against the Dragons) we’re into first, by losing we’re equal third,” he said.
“We found some success down the left hand side of the field, creating opportunities, but didn’t stick to what was working for us.
“Their big fellas were on there for the majority of the game and we got rolled over.”
Powerhouse winger Dennis Spathis continued his rich vein of form on the left flank for Western, scoring his fourth try in three games.
Wellington centre Brock Naden, Orange CYMS backrower Tyrone Harrison and Glasheen, Western’s players’ player in the loss, all cross for tries.
- ILLAWARRA SOUTH COAST 26 (M Heffernan, L Macpherson, N Sharp, B Barbuto tries; N Sharp 4, J. Brisbane goals) def WESTERN RAMS 20 (B Naden, T Harrison, B Glasheen, D Spathis tries, B Naden, D Spathis goals)