The Dubbo Rhinos showed plenty of fight and a burst of early momentum in their clash with the Mudgee Wombats on Saturday, but were made to pay for their defensive lapses by the hard-running visitors.
The Wombats took possession of the contest early and sent James Young crashing over to open up the scorecards, but it wasn't long before the Rhinos' Kevin Greenaway slotted a penalty kick through the uprights.
The Rhinos were able to build and claw back the Wombats' early lead with a bit of outside brilliance from captain Matt Neill and speedster Jesse Redenbach, with Redenbach crossing for his first try of the season and pushing the score to 8 - 7.
Unfortunately for the Dubbo side, the Wombats' power and speed came roaring back in the form of David Jessiman and Jayden Brown to boost the visitors to 17 - 8.
Another break came for the Wombats soon after, with the Rhinos' Redenbach trying again for the flank before being brought down just short of the try line, and a return push and big penalty providing a moment of confusion that allowed Lachie Morse to catch the defenders unaware and sneak across for another five points.
A successful conversion by Jack Mann put the visitors at 24 - 8 heading into the half-time break.
Wombats' captain Tom Dunstan said he was proud of his side for standing up and making every opportunity count despite a few early injuries and knocks.
"We did have a few injuries early on, we had some players going off the back of that, but we managed to keep it together and keep going and even have a bit of fun with it," Dunstan said.
"We've been working on our fitness quite a bit to make sure we're starting quicker and moving to get that ball to the line quicker, which payed off."
Dustan himself kept the points flowing upon the start of the second half, muscling over to ensure the Rhinos weren't able to close the gap any further, with second grader Lachie Brown stepping up and adding another try to the total during a replacement appearance.
The Rhinos' Matt Graham lamented the wide scoresheet, but said that it didn't tell the whole story, praising the consistent effort throughout and the results the Rhino secured in the opening 30 minutes.
"I think the first twenty to thirty minutes in the whole game were great, a few of the winning factors went against us and things fell apart, but I don't think they're 50 points better than us," Graham said.
"It's definitely disappointing at the end of the day."
Mudgee's Jamie Bayliss and Jayden Brown were able to muscle over for one more try each in the dying minutes of the match, but Graham put the result down to a lack of awareness and defence than physical fitness.
"There was definitely some encouraging signs, but we've just got to make sure we're focused all the way through those eighty minutes, all the last few weeks that's what we've been talking about and every time we let that go, it kills us," Graham said.
The Rhinos will have the benefit of a bye next week to take stock and recharge, while the Wombats will take on Mitchell Rugby Club at home.
Mudgee Wombats 48 (James Young, David Jessiman, Lachie Morse, Thomas Dunstan, Lochie Brown, Jamie Bayliss, Jayden Brown 2, James Ford conversion, Jack Mann three conversions) defeat Dubbo Rhinos 8 (Jesse Redenbach try, Kevin Greenaway penalty goal).