Despite producing what was arguably its best overall performance of the year, Deniliquin went down to Temora in round five of the Southern Inland Rugby Union second grade competition on Saturday.
The Drovers showed plenty of fight in their 27-15 loss in front of a big home crowd at Memorial Park.
Coach Warwick Strong said he was pleased with his side’s performance, but the visiting Tuskers were too strong on the day.
“To be honest, I think they fielded a fair few of their first graders (who had the bye),” Strong said.
“But that’s no excuse. We have to be willing to play anyone and Saturday’s match will only do us good.
“I thought our side played very well. Temora just produced a few pieces of individual brilliance which led to tries.
“I wouldn’t say their tries were necessarily well constructed.”
The Tuskers fired from the opening whistle. One of their backs found space and chipped over the head of Deniliquin fullback Todd Thocolich to score.
Deni fought back with a try of its own, through captain Jack Ellice-Flint who was playing in the unfamiliar position of open-side flanker.
But it was definitely Temora’s half. The Tuskers crossed for another two tries to hold a 15-5 lead at half time.
“We had a pretty good second half,” Strong said.
“Our forwards were pushing them back in the rucks and our backs were getting plenty of the ball.”
Both sides managed to score two tries apiece in the second stanza.
Deniliquin’s forwards managed to string several dominant ‘pick-and-drive’ phases together, which eventually saw utility forward Bernard Schoeman barge over for a five-pointer.
Outside centre Justin Barnett also crossed after muscling his way over the line.
Thocolich was unlucky not claim another try for Deni, deemed to have been ‘held up’ over the line.
“They were probably the strongest side we’ve played this year,” Strong said.
“We’ve still got a bit to work on, but we’re definitely improving.
“It’s hit-outs like the one on Saturday that will only make us stronger.”
Rookie prop Te Aroha ‘T.A.’ Keremeta was awarded the three votes as best player afield for Deniliquin. Schoeman score two, while Thocolich and five-eighth Nathan Holahan share one each. Schoeman was also named the Player’s Player and Scott Steyger snared the Dingo Award.
For the first time in many years, Deniliquin fielded a women’s rugby side on Saturday.
Despite being comfortably beaten by Temora, the locals showed plenty of enthusiasm at Memorial Park.
“It’s promising that we got as much interest as we did,” stand-in coach Jack Ellice-Flint said.
“It’s great that we were able to put a side together. It really is healthy for rugby in the region.”
Captain Stacey O’Meara was named Deni’s best player.
“Stacey’s done a fair bit behind the scenes to get the side on the park, as has Kristy Hetherington.
“We’re hoping to have a few more matches this year, so if any ladies are interested in playing, they should give us a call.”
For more information, contact the Drovers on 0417 793 861.