"WE got taken back down to earth."
That was the admission of Dubbo Kangaroos coach Simon Petelo on Saturday afternoon as the Bathurst Bulldogs handed his side a 40-12 defeat, snapping their three-game Blowes Clothing Cup winning streak.
The Roos were hopeful of upsetting a Bulldogs outfit which had already twice defeated them in 2019, but like all other sides which have visited Ashwood Park this season, they could not better the hosts.
Despite having a strong wind at their backs in the first half, the Roos were only able to cross once in that opening stanza. In contrast Bulldogs scored three tries to set the platform for victory.
"Bathurst is definitely the team to beat. We were under no illusions that we were going to come here and it was going to be a tough game, especially with them at home," Petelo said.
"The last three weeks we'd been on a bit of a high, but we definitely got taken back down to earth.
"We were starved of possession really early for about 17 minutes and against a quality side like Bathurst, if they do that we can't put any points on them.
"We stuck in there for most of the game, but this side are pretty well structured and well coached. We were behind the eight-ball from the word go."
It was Harry Webber, who made his return to the Bulldogs' first XV on Saturday, that opened scoring in the sixth minute. The star winger powered through the Roos' online defence following some patient phase rugby from his team-mates.
Five minutes later, again on the back of quality phases, Scott Johnston crossed and with Will Oldham's conversion, it was 12-0 to the Bulldogs.
READ MORE: Liva is tough as concrete for CSU
READ ALSO: Saints Zig Zag their way into first place
READ ALSO: Bathurst claims a rare Astley Cup three-peat
It took 16 minutes for the Roos to finally enjoy some quality possession and they made the most of it as Tim Beach stepped his way over the line.
That try lifted the visitors and while they spent more time camped inside Bulldogs' 22, the competition front-runners showed why they have not lost at home in more than a year as they held strong in defence.
Five minutes out from half-time Justin Mobbs showed his strength to drag a Roos defender over the line and score and with Oldham's conversion, Bulldogs led 19-7.
Mobbs had his second 12 minutes after play resumed, sneaking down the blindside after a smart ball from Peter Fitzsimmons.
The Roos put the resulting kick-off out on the full which saw the Bulldogs back in attack and after creating an overlap on the left wing, Ben Shepperd crossed.
The Roos kept fighting, but it clearly wasn't their afternoon.
With 13 minutes left they knocked on inside the Bulldogs 22, and after Oldham then Mobbs toed the ball along the ground, Webber had his second.
Then, with five minutes left on the clock, the Roos created an overlap down the left wing but when Anthony Golding was tackled the ball rolled out of hands into touch.
Beach crossed for a late consolation, slicing between two defenders down the left edge, but he was injured in the process.
Though it was not a day to remember for the Roos, Bulldogs skipper Fitzsimmons was delighted with how his side stood up.
"They'd been travelling quite well, but I think we really stuck to our structures which created a lot of space for us," he said.
"The contact was heavy, but we were strong enough to go through that and still open up the space.
"Dubbo came out firing today, they were ready to play. We worked on a few things in the trainings in the lead up to this game and we just wanted to go out and put them in place. I think that was a really important win for us."