Teams already thinking of finals

THIS year’s Central West Rugby Union competition is shaping up to be ultra close and every game can make or break a team’s chances of qualifying for the top five and being a part in the semi-finals.

Tomorrow’s game at Ashwood Park between the Bathurst Bulldogs and Cowra Eagles is one such game, with both teams fancying their chances of reaching the play-offs and already showing good form.

The Bulldogs won their first two games before a narrow 17-13 loss against Orange City last week, while Cowra have three wins under their belt including a big one over the Dubbo Kangaroos.

Bulldogs coach James Horsburgh is expecting Cowra to come out fired up after their 58-22 annihilation of Dubbo.

“It will be a very good contest. Cowra have been called a dark horse by some of the people I’ve talked to and their win on the weekend probably suggests that is the case,” Horsburgh said.

“Cowra have a strong forward pack and I think they had the best lineout in the competition last year.

“They are a very well drilled team defensively and I believe they have picked up a couple of gentlemen from overseas who are playing for them in the backs and are very good. It’s an area that they have been weaker in the past but that will help to strengthen them up.”

Horsburgh said he was extremely happy with the loss to City, who have been the benchmark team in the competition for the past two seasons and believes with more work, they will be able to win those close, hard games.

“I was extremely proud of the boys. They gave it everything for the full 80 minutes and defended for 60 per cent of the game. Without some of the silly mistakes we made at times, I think we would have had another 15 to 20 points in us,”

“What got City home was just the amount of possession they had. They are the benchmark team for retaining possession and there were at least four occasions where they held the ball for more than 10 phases. That’s extremely tough to keep defending against.”

Despite the loss, the Bulldogs are already well ahead of last year when they were still winless after three games and they are much more confident of a finals berth as a result.

“Compared to this time last year, we are much better off. We are seeing the benefits of the hard work we put in. There is no doubt last year was a rebuilding year but we had some good, young guys come through like Aaron Booby and Peter Fitzsimons,” he said.

“Peter in particular has done extremely well but having a guy like Adam Dwyer back helps as well. He beings the extra experience and leadership that was missing last year.”

The Bathurst Bulldogs will take on Cowra at Ashwood Park tomorrow from 3.15pm.

BATHURST BULLDOGS: 1 Chris Plunkett, 2 Sean Fogerty, 3 Aaron Booby, 4 Dale Norris, 5 Adam Dwyer, 6 Chris de Young, 7 Scott Johnston, 8 Peter Fitzsimons, 9 Tom Hollis, 10 Stephen Locke, 11 Tim Collins, 12 Josh Lee, 13 Bart Bogart, 14 Ben Shephard, 15 Phil Tonkin.

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