A dominant final 20 minutes wasn’t enough to get the Rhinos over the line against the Blayney Rams at Apex Oval on Saturday.
The Rhinos were the better side in the opening 20 minutes, but let in a two “soft tries” just before half time.
That put the visitors on a roll and they led 29-5 before Dubbo wrestled back momentum, scoring three tries to claw back to 29-26.
“A couple of soft tries … that was pretty much the difference,” Rhinos coach Guy Turner said.
“It’s disappointing. I thought we had this game, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie.”
Dubbo crossed first, with Ryan Sumner showing speed out of the scrum on the back of some sustained pressure inside Blayney’s 22.
But Dubbo were unable to convert strong possession over the next 15 minutes and in the 28th minute the momentum shifted.
Blayney’s Luke Johnston ran 40 metres, fending off four attempted tackles, before he was finally brought down by Jayden Powell just inside the Rhinos’ 22.
The run handed Blayney terrific field position and they capitalised four phases later through Andy Delaney.
Johnston nabbed a try of his own minutes later with Cameron Cole crossing on the stroke of half-time to give Blayney a 17-5 lead.
Rams skipper Baz Hobby and Stu Tait extended the lead in the second half, before Ricky Weatherall put James Vaughn into space out wide.
The try, and successful sideline conversion from Chris Sellings, put the spark back into the Rhinos’ attack, and soon after Viliame Turuva sprinted 70 metres to score a spectacular individual try.
Weatherall brought the Rhinos back to within three points with three minutes remaining, but they ran out of time to complete the comeback against the fourth-placed Rams.
Turner had high praise for Weatherall, Sellings and Sumner, and called Powell’s step up to first grade “outstanding”.
“Unfortunately … the defence a few times today just fell apart and credit to them, they capitalised on it,” he said.
“They had many boys playing two games today, we shouldn't have let them win.”
BLAYNEY RAMS 29 (Andy Delaney, Luke Johnston, Cameron Cole, Baz Hobby, Stu Tait tries, Liam McArthur 2 conversions) def DUBBO RHINOS 26 (Ryan Sumner, James Vaughn, Villiame Turuva, Ricky Weatherill tries, Chris Sellings 3 conversions)