A slow start has hindered the Dubbo Rhinos who lost their first game of the season on Saturday against the Parkes Boars.
The Rhinos hit the road and travelled to Parkes to take on the competition heavyweights at Pioneer Oval and it was the latter who got the last laugh, winning 27-17 in round three of the New Holland Cup.
Even after their loss, Dubbo Rhinos coach Doug Sandry had nothing but praise for Parkes' performance on Saturday.
"They came out on fire, they were up 24-0 early and we fought hard," he said.
"We came back really well but you can't give up 24 points and expect to win the game.
"We had a slow start, defensively we didn't tackle or show up."
The Rhinos came into the game with two wins from their opening two matches but it was Parkes who raced out to an early lead Semi Rokodinonno scored a double while Samuel Davis and Sororpepeli Soqe also scored tries.
The Rhinos hit back with Kyle Forgione, Lachie O'Malley and Nacewa Nalagi all scoring tries as the game moved to 24-17 but a late penalty goal gave the Boars a comfortable win.
Sandry believes his side got a bit of a lesson on what it takes to be a top team in the competition.
"They score four really good tries and three of them were from probably 40 or 50 metres out so they were really, really good," he said.
"We knew we were up for a challenge but they deserved the victory."
While they started slow, Sandry said it was positive to see how well the Rhinos fought back in the second half.
"We did and it was pleasing because down 24-0 you don't know what you are going to get," he said.
"We fought back, I think it was 24-12 at half-time.
"We picked up a couple of tries."
While he hasn't played many games for the Rhinos, Nalagi was someone who caught Sandry's eye during the game.
"He made a massive difference, we sent him on and he changed the momentum of the game so he had a terrific match," he said.
"He and Lachie O'Malley basically dragged us back into the match.
"We scored and got back to 24-17 but they closed it out with a late penalty goal so that's the way it is.
"But you don't win a competition in round three, that's a good thing."
Saturday's match was Parkes' first of the season but Sandry knows if the Rhinos can improve then they won't be too far away from matching them next time the sides meet.
"They are the best team in the comp, no doubt about it,"
"We know we've got work to do, we've got some structure issues we need to sort out.
"Maybe even some positional changes, we've got some blokes who are new in positions and are struggling with it a little bit so it's all good.
"We'll start to worry if we are playing like this in round 15 but we know that we are going to improve."
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