Orange Emus coach Paul Ringland called it a “tradesman-like” performance.
The visitors knew they had a big job ahead of them to beat the Dubbo Kangaroos at Victoria Park on Saturday, and maintain their unbeaten run.
It proved true for the first 20 minutes, with the tow sides taking turns probing each others' line as the defence held strong, before the Emus crossed through Jayden Norris for the only points of the half.
Ultimately, the visitors proved the more disciplined of the two sides.
Roos coach Beau Robinson admitted “we just weren’t good enough”, but said strong defence for much of the game was definitely a positive.
“We probably just weren’t patient enough,” Robinson said.
“They threw a fair bit at us … we absorbed it for a good period but we just weren't able to, you can’t do that forever … you can’t just be making tackles all day and that’s what we did.
“The effort was definitely there, which was great, but in the end they were just smarter and more patient and deservedly they won.”
Momentum – and field position – swung throughout the opening 20 minutes, with most of the play inside each team’s attacking 22.
Orange’s Aidan Baker almost got on the board with a classic winger’s dive on the sideline, but he was pushed into touch – in the process taking out a toddler who had strayed too close to the sideline.
The Emus were the first to convert the pressure into points moments later, with Jayden Norris catching the ball out wide, then stepping on a dime to see the try line open up in front of him.
Captain Nigel Staniforth added the extras with ease, his first of three successful conversions.
Anthony Golding had the Roos’ only scoring chance of the half with a penalty goal, but sent the ball well wide of the posts.
The hosts came out firing in the second half and pressured the Emus’ line, earning two penalty goals in quick succession.
Golding hit his mark both times to bring the score to 7-6, and the hope among the home fans was tangible.
But Orange quickly dashed that hope, with Aidan Baker diving over out wide to give the visitors a 14-6 lead.
The Emus had the last word – literally – with Nas Havealeta pushing his way over at the death to lock in the win.
“I thought it was a really tough battle,” Ringland said post-match.
“Dubbo really made us work the whole 80 minutes and that’s what we did – we rolled our sleeves up and ground it out.
“I think out D was outstanding today. The only time I thought they really troubled us was off back-to-back penalties and allowed them down into our attacking area, other than that our defensive line was really solid.”
Jack Marchington was outstanding in the back row, Ringland said, while Will Mortimer was solid in his first start at halfback.
Tom Goolagong was also strong, despite losing his shoe and, deciding he didn’t need it, tossing it aside to run the ball forward.
Ringland said the Roos would be tough to beat going forward.
“Dubbo has always for a lot of strength, a lot of numbers, they’ve got some big boys, obviously they’ve got Beau driving them around the paddock and they look like they’re really starting to gel as a team so they’re going to be a handful,” he said.
ORANGE EMUS 21 (Jayden Norris, Aidan Baker, Nas Havealeta tries; Nigel Staniforth 3 conversions) defeated DUBBO KANGAROOS 6 (Anthony Golding 2 penalty goals)