WHEN Coonamble High School failed to complete their first three sets against Gundagai High School in Wednesday's CRL Country Cup clash at Carrington Park things were looking dreary.
However, Coonamble put that poor start behind them to run out 28-16 winners in the Under 16s Small Schools Final.
Gundagai had set up camp inside the Coonamble half for the opening 10 minutes but from that point on the momentum started to swing.
Five-eighth Mitch Cleary led the fightback with his man-of-the-match performance while his teammates Kyle Wiggins, Nathan Walker and captain Josh Forgione were almost unstoppable when given space.
Coonamble coach Paul Cleary said his boys showed excellent character to keep composed after a horror start.
"It was a nervous start. I think we completed one set in the first half and they turned the ball over five times in as many sets," he said.
"They tackled for the first 20 minutes but they only let in one try so I thought if they maintained the ball and keep possession then they would be in the game.
"They all grew up in Coonamble, with the exception of one, and they've all played together from under 8s and they've developed really well."
Coonamble's poor ball security was eventually punished in the seventh minute when Gundagai centre Lochlan Bower crashed over the line. Caleb Piper's extras made it 6-0.
When the Coonamble boys began to complete sets the tide turned in their favour.
Nathan Walker came within inches of scoring when he dropped the ball over the line but on the next set Ngaarruu Turnbull opened their account with a try on the right wing.
Wiggins delivered a blow to the Gudangai squad when his super solo effort led to a post-siren try and a 10-6 lead at the break.
Coonamble came out firing in the new half.
Cleary and Wiggins linked up to set up a great team try for their fullback Stephen Parry Leonard next to the uprights and a 16-6 lead.
Two tries in as many sets for Earl Greenaway and Cleary took the game away for good from Gundagai.
Gundagai added respectability to the scoreboard with two classy consolation tries for Jared Elphick and Piper.