Another stellar showing from Bec Smyth led the Wiradjuri Goannas to a fourth successive win to start the Western Women's Rugby League (WWRL) season on Wednesday night.
Played in front of a strong crowd at Parkes in the lead-up to the Western Rams' game against France, the Goannas scored a 26-16 win over the Vipers in a quality and competitive contest.
Two of the top sides in the WWRL, the Goannas and Vipers were locked at 16-all early in the second half but two tries to Smyth late on secured the win at Jock Colley Field.
"It's a good game when you come up against the team that is so good," Smyth said of the rivals from the Orange region.
"They were good in attack and defence so it was hard to dominate anywhere, so hats off to our girls.
"We didn't start great but we dug deep, pushed hard, and got over the line."
The Vipers - featuring recent Jillaroos representative Kaitlyn Phillips - led 12-10 approaching half-time but the Goannas maintained their intensity across the entire 60 minutes.
Former Australian rugby union representative Smyth was the star for Goannas, playing lock and continually punching holes in the Vipers' defence, while Britt Naden controlled proceedings in the halves, Demi Wilson made a huge amount of metres up front, and Kaitlyn Andrews and Lilli-Rai Campbell worked tirelessly in attack and defence.
"There's really not a weak link in this team," Smyth said.
"Every position we're so dominant and being able to run off those girls is a bit of a luxury, really.
"I find I'm just the one who's at the end of the play the others do. I'm lucky in that way."
Phillips, who said it was "awesome" to be back playing in her home region after spending 2019 with Mounties in the Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership, showed real flashes of brilliance couldn't inspire her side in the final minutes.
"It was a tough battle and really back and forth but there was a period there where we lost it a little," she said.
"It was so even so when one team dropped off a little you knew the other was going to get it.
"They were more enthusiastic there towards the end when we needed to lift. They deserved the win though, they played awesome."
Phillips scored what appeared to be a crucial try for the Vipers five minutes from half-time at Parkes and Bec Ford's perfect conversion from wide out gave the visitors at 12-10 lead.
They seemed certain to go into the sheds with the lead but the Goannas produced something special right before the break.
Naden produced a neat offload close to her own line, and then Wilson burst into the clear before a simple draw and pass put India Draper from Parkes in the clear.
There's few in the west with the pace of Draper and the hometown favourite ran 70m to score and set-up a 16-12 half-time lead.
Lailee Phillips, the sister of Kaitlyn and one of the best on the park on Wednesday, scored early in the second half as the Orange-based side levelled things up, but the Goannas were the more composed in the final 20 minutes and Smyth's heroics secured victory.
"Coming from behind quite a lot is, luckily, something we haven't had to do too much of this season," Smyth said.
While the Phillips sisters impressed, Bec Ford and Jacky Lyden were also standouts for the Vipers.
- WIRADJURI GOANNAS 26 (Bec Smyth 3, Cassie Toomey, India Draper tries; Kaitlyn Andrews 2, Britt Naden goals) defeated VIPERS 16 (Kasey Byrne, Kaitlyn Phillips, Lailee Phillips tries; Emily McDonald, Bec Ford goals)