If you were at Lithgow on Saturday to watch Western’s super impressive first-up Daley Cup victory over Penrith, you would have noticed two things.
Firstly, how insanely poised Western’s 17-year-old halfback Rylee Blackhall was throughout the 70 minutes, producing two line breaks, setting up a try and scoring one himself in a brilliant outing from the young Wellington general.
And, secondly, how irritating it must be to come up against prop Colby Peckham, the Dubbo CYMS bookend seemingly making it his mission to vex every member of the Panthers pack.
Western stormed to a 34-18 victory on the back of both efforts, Blackhall’s class and Peckham’s ability to irritate the opposition the talking points out of a stunning opening round triumph at Tony Luchetti Sportsground.
Against a monster Panthers pack, Peckham helped both keep Western in the game early and then lift the Rams over the top of the mountain men when the game was on the line, never taking a backward step.
“He inspires others when he does that,” Western coach Kurt Hancock said.
“It’s funny, every team definitely needs a bloke like Colby Peckham.
“Just when you think the game’s done and dusted you send out Colby and the game lights up again. He was good, though, he led from the front.”
As did Blackhall, who was sublime with his touches on Saturday.
I think Rylee Blackhall is going to be a star, I honestly do. He was a class above today.Rams mentor Kurt Hancock.
The gifted half helped lift Western back from an early 6-0 deficit to a 16-12 half-time lead, with Ben Lovett bagging an early double to sit alongside a four-pointer from his centre partner Mack Atkins.
Atkins jagged the first try of the second-half, as well, while Blackhall and rampaging Forbes backrower Jack Hartwig also crossed in the second stanza to help cap a tremendous opening to 2019 for Hancock’s under 18s side.
Blackhall’s combination with Hawks five-eighth Ryan Manning is one Hancock is confident will flourish, while the injection of Ash Cosgrove out the back proved more than a tough one to handle for the Panthers defence.
“We designed a few things to let Rylee play to best of his potential as well as Ryan Manning and Ash as well, and they worked well,” Hancock said.
“I think Rylee Blackhall is going to be a star, I honestly do. He was a class above today.
“We’ve got a heap of improvement in us, and that’s the good thing. To play so well and our D was outstanding in the second half … we’ll be right up there at the end of the year.”
“We just had to survive the first 20 minutes today and the game was always going to suit us.”
Panthers coach Robert Taylor said his side was guilty of not handling the occasion.
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Discipline let down Penrith, the Panthers on the wrong end of a 10-5 penalty count.
Electric fullback Sunia Turuva was a bright spot for the visiting Panthers though, scoring a first-half double to help keep Penrith in touch with the hosts.
“We just lacked a bit of urgency in what we were doing. We lost too much possession and gave away to many penalties, that killed us,” Taylor said.
“There was a bit of niggle out there, but that’s part of footy.”
- WESTERN RAMS 34 (Mack Atkins 2, Ben Lovett 2, Rylee Blackhall, Jack Hartwig tries; Tyler Colley 5 goals) def PENRITH PANTHERS 18 (Sunia Turuva 2, Mitch Owens tries; Connor Mason 3 goals).