Orange Emus will head into the Blowes Clothing Cup's Easter break undefeated after edging out a fighting Dubbo Kangaroos outfit in the second round of the season on Saturday afternoon, the two sides going tit-for-tat for virtually the entire 80 minutes.
The greens' 36-27 victory at Endeavour Oval was their second bonus-point win on the trot but it was probably the visitors' performance which stood out more, the Shaun McHugh-led Roos largely kept pace with the defending premiers.
Granted, as Emus skipper Nigel Staniforth said after the game, that was somewhat due to the greens falling asleep defensively a couple of times but Dubbo's performance was still undeniably promising for a young side that's still coming together.
McHugh said as much too.
"It was never going to be easy coming to Endeavour Oval, the defending premiers on their turf is always a tough task but we stuck with them and it was a pretty pleasing effort," he said.
"We got beaten and that's never nice but there's a lot we can, and will, take from an effort like that. We're young and it's a new group, we're still coming together, so we'll keep building.
"We are still 2-0 though so we do need to start winning some games, it's promising though because it's never easy going to the defending premiers' home turf."
Staniforth praised Roos too, saying his side "only played as well as they let us at times".
"They kept coming at us and even though we let them at times, we were own worst enemy at times, they played well and kept themselves in it," Staniforth, who bagged a double in the win, said.
"It's good to get that bonus win, another one, and it's good to be undefeated going into the bye because we'll get some guys back after the break that'll really add to our depth but there's a lot we can work on, and need to.
"At times we were great defensively, at one point Roos would've had 20 phases inside our 22 and we held them out, forced them to take the penalty goal, which was great. But then there'd be times we'd fall asleep and most of the time it was after we scored points, that's not a habit we can let ourselves get into."
"We conceded points a lot after scoring too, and we didn't like it much either," McHugh, who also crossed the stripe in the win, added.
The two skippers aren't wrong either, only twice did a side score back-to-back five points and the result is a reflection of that as they were both Emus.
Roos actually led 7-5 early in the first half before the greens crossed twice through Staniforth and Louis Carr to push the score to 17-5, although Hamish Gordon cut that back to a seven-point margin with a penalty goal on half-time.
Again the sides traded tries early in the second half, before the greens went back-to-back through Matt Findlay and Staniforth again, to lead 29-20.
Dubbo hit back again then, cutting the margin to just two points, but Jamil Khalfan's late five-pointer capped the victory for Emus.
Staniforth was strong for Emus, obviously, as were Sam Greatbatch, Lachie Harris and the returning TJ Cunynghame, while Dubbo's back-row of McHugh, Ben Knaggs and Will Archer were simply outstanding for the entire 80 minutes.
- ORANGE EMUS 36 (Nigel Staniforth 2, Harry Cummins, Louis Carr, Matt Findlay, Jamil Khalfan tries; Staniforth 3 conversions) def DUBBO KANGAROOS 27 (Shaun McHugh, George Woods, Nick Harvey, Ryan Johnston tries; Hamish Gordon 2 conversions, penalty goal)