THREE tries in six minutes saw the Western Rams under 21s come from behind to beat their Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia rivals 26-16 at Carrington Park at Bathurst on Saturday.
Trailing 12-10 after the opening 35-minute half, the Rams – which included Parkes product Ethan McKellar – found themselves under pressure early in the second stanza.
For 15 minutes FIRLA camped on the Rams’ line, but the visitors were unable to get any reward.
Momentum then swung as the hosts quickly surged to a 14-point lead – a scoring blitz which FIRLA was unable to recover from.
“They’re a really fast, mobile side. We didn’t know what to expect, but they had that speed and they sort of worried us a little bit when they got the ball wide with offloads,” Rams coach Kurt Hancock said.
“They came back into it, but the first part of the second half we were really good defensively I thought.
“They had a lot of ball early in that second half, but once we got it down their end we took our chances.”
After the opening whistle it was FIRLA who found itself under pressure, having let the kick-off go dead in goal.
For the next 10 minutes FIRLA scrambled well in defence, until finally a well-weighted kick set up winger Matt Ranse. Nick Millar converted to make it 6-0.
The Rams continued to press in attack with FIRLA taking 15 minutes before they finally enjoyed possession in their rivals’ territory.
Yet for all that early attacking football, the Rams only managed one try.
It meant that when five-eighth Nick Lawrence crossed in the 20th minute for FIRLA and Todd Sapienza converted, it was 6-all.
That try lifted FIRLA and four minutes later it had the lead as hooker Josh Natoli dived over from dummy half. Sapienza added the extras to make it 12-6.
It took some inspiration from Rams halfback Ryan Griffin shortly before the break to narrow the gap, the Orange CYMS product making a strong charge following a scrum.
The ball was then spread to the left and Ranse finished to make it 12-10 at the break.
When play resumed it was all FIRLA, and while the Rams pressured themselves with some handling errors, they held firm in defence.
It was Mudgee second rower Zac Adams – who was named best on field for the Rams – who turned momentum when he split FIRLA up the middle of the ruck 25 metres out and went on to score.
Off the next set St Pat’s hooker Hudson White benefited from a fortuitous bounce as he chipped ahead, regathered and slammed the ball down over the line.
Three minutes later the Rams were in again via Mudgee centre Camden Sutton, White adding the extras to make it 26-12.
FIRLA’s Kyle Lowe scored a consolation in the final minute.