The Cobar Camels displayed plenty of honed rugby skills in their classy 31-17 win over Gulargambone at Ailsa Fitzsimmons Memorial Oval on Saturday.
It was a great start to the 2018 Western Plains Rugby season for new coach Len Baker who admitted he was nervous as to how his previously untested side would go up against a Gular team that had been playing together for some time.
Baker said after what had been a pretty ordinary pre-season hit out in Mudgee a month ago, the Cobar team had since been focussing on getting their player combinations working.
And it looked like they nailed that for most of Saturday’s game with Gular.
With the Camels’ forward pack of Taufoa Taufoa, Sam Baker, Steve Gillette, Tony Jacklin and Josh Bain, all in sync and doing their job up front, it made it easy for their loose forwards to move the ball around.
Baker praised his flankers, Panapa Asiata (who he rated as the Player of the Day) and Brodie Scott (who also shared in the game’s best and fairest points). Both flankers crossed for a try each in Saturday’s match.
“Brodie and Panapa were all over the place, they were there when needed,” Baker said.
He was also full of praise for Mark Aumua, who was originally on the reserves bench, but ended up playing three-quarters of a game.
“He spurs the team on, he makes an impact,” Baker said of Aumua.
Tommy Wihongi also made an impact when he came on in the second half and his tough aggressive attacking runs inspired the rest of his Camels’ team.
Baker said Jake Harbison also had a good game along with Tom Wall who did a great job directing traffic.
“I played a few guys out of position, trying out different combinations.
“I think in the end we got it right,” Baker said.
Panapa opened the scoring for Cobar to give the Camels a 5-0 lead.
The conversion attempt by kicker Evan Rice (on loan from the Cobar Roosters for the match) was off the mark and when Gular later replied with an unconverted try of their own, the scores were locked at 5-all and stayed that way until the half time break.
It wasn’t long after the re-start that Zach Finn crossed for the Camels and Rice’s conversion gave the Camels a 12-5 lead.
Gular, taking advantage of some lack lustre Camels’ defence in the centre of the field, ran through to score under the posts and the conversion tied the scores at 12-all.
Sustained pressure on the line by Gular paid dividends and, after winning the scrum on one side of the field, they scored on the opposite wing to go ahead 17-12.
Not showing any signs of being defeated (as has been the case in past seasons) the Camels rallied and soon Slade Neale had blustered his way through to score next to the posts.
Rice’s simple conversion gave the Camels a 19-17 lead.
Scott capitalised on a mistake with a dropped ball turning into a drop kick which he followed through, regathered and scored under the posts.
Rice’s kick in front was never going to miss and Cobar led 26-17.
Harbison found some space out wide and was headed to the line (and if his knee had of been up for the distance he was certain to score) however he chose to pass off to team mate Taufoa who was with him in support.
Taufoa crashed over in the corner to put a Gular comeback out of everyone’s mind and the Camels finished with a 31-17 win.
Cobar has a bye in the competition this Saturday which Coach Baker said will work in their favour.
He said with many of their main players all on the same mine roster, and only available to play every second weekend, he’ll have a strong side for their next game against Nyngan in a fortnight.