BATHURST Bulldogs coach Nathan Pearce was looking for a hard game of rugby on Saturday and that is exactly what the Cowra Eagles provided his men.
While the Ashwood Park scoreboard read 27-8 to the Bulldogs at full-time, the bonus-point win in the Blowes Clothing Cup match was hard-earned.
“That’s a tough game of footy, they played a good game of footy, smart footy,” Pearce said.
“Their set piece was brilliant, their scrum I reckon got over us today and we’ve got a good scrum.
“But we did strangle them a bit in defence, so I am very pleased with our defence. It’s a shame we let them in there near the end, but that was good pressure from Cowra. They well and truly deserved it.”
Having provided competition leaders Orange Emus with a stern test a week earlier, the Eagles came to Bathurst hoping to upset the second placed Bulldogs.
Bulldogs restricted the Eagles to just three points in the first via an Anthony Yeo penalty, but the Bathurst outfit also encountered some good defence.
Still, tries to flanker Alex Weal and number 8 Peter Fitzsimmons, who returned from suspension, gave Bulldogs a 12-3 advantage at half-time.
Twelve minutes into the second half a Kurt Weekes penalty pushed the margin out to 15-3, and following that, Bulldogs renewed its attacking pressure.
For the next 15 minutes the hosts camped inside Cowra’s 22 and while the Eagles managed to repel a number of phases, Fitzsimmons finally found a gap.
He sold a dummy to his left to slot through Cowra’s defence then ran around to score under the sticks.
That made it 20-3 with 19 minutes to play, but there was still fight left in the Eagles.
Evan Stanbridge was held up over the line as he tried to drive his way over before some nice footwork from Tom Dewhurst finally saw Cowra’s effort rewarded in the 74th minute.
From the restart Cowra again pushed forward in attack, but just as they worked the ball inside Bulldogs’ half, Fitzsimmons pounced.
He plucked an intercept and ran away to score, Weekes converting to put the final score at 27-8.
Though Cowra tried hard, coach Troy Hayes felt the performance did not match what his men had produced a week prior.
Things arriving quicker at the breakdown may have gotten the Eagles closer to Bulldogs.
“We were way down on what we were playing last weekend, we probably dropped about two levels from last week, I think our silly mistakes let them back into the game,” he said.
“There are a few little things that we have to work on for next week, but we’ve got to keep moving ahead.”