The Cowra Eagles are still chasing their elusive first win of the season following a 25-17 loss against CSU on Saturday.
While the Eagles showed evidence of improvement which saw them go to the break with a four-point lead, a half-time spray from CSU coach Luke Costello jolted the students into action to record a bonus point win.
Eagles coach Colin Kilby believed that 60 minutes of the contest were the best they’ve played all year.
“I don’t think we had a bad section of play today, we probably panicked a bit in front,” he said.
“We started to rush a few plays, we kicked a bit more possession away than what I would have liked. “In the first half we kept it in hand a little more and controlled the ball.”
Cowra were the first to trouble the scorer when Mick Sheehy potted a penalty in the 9th minute.
The home side were looking to play an up-tempo game and Sheehy accepted another opportunity to add points to lead 6-0 after 12 minutes.
At times, the execution in general play from both sides early was lacking a crisp quality but Cowra were rolling over the advantage line with strong forward charges on the fringe of the ruck.
Sheehy stretched to lead to 9-0 halfway through the first stanza as Cowra dominated field position and possession.
However, with 10 minutes remaining in the half, a momentum shift occurred as possession and territory began to even up.
CSU lock Mitch Brown was presented an easy passage to the line in the 33rd minute to close the gap and the students were unlucky not to take the lead when final passes went astray before the break.
The Eagles 9-5 lead at half-time gave CSU’s coach ammunition and he let his troops have it with both barrels.
“We weren’t happy with that first half, but that was to Cowra’s credit,” Costello said.
“They played well, put us under pressure and we didn’t react as I would have liked.”
But the urgency was there for all to see at the resumption and CSU took the lead with a smart try through a backline shift to Cam Backhouse.
Cowra was getting the better of the set piece, but their discipline started to waver.
The Eagles edged ahead with Sheehy’s fourth penalty to lead 12-10 but not for long.
CSU’s backline were hitting their straps and a slick ball from fly half Sam Ryan put inside centre William Griffiths under the sticks to lead 17-12 with Jack Garrard’s conversion.
A Garrard penalty extended the cushion 10 minutes later before Backhouse showed good speed to grab his double.
At 25-12 down, the Eagles rallied but couldn’t close the gap quickly enough as No. 8 Adam Meiklejohn crossed with only four minutes remaining on the clock before full time was blown with no further addition to the score.
“I don’t think the table reflects the way they’re going, they have had some unlucky losses,” Costello said.
“I was really worried about today and the game could have gone either way.
“I think parts of our execution and some of the tries we scored were good and there were times where we got some good phases in the forwards and we secured some clean ball.
“We haven’t won in Cowra for a while and to get five points we’re very happy with that. Cowra will beat a few teams this year and hopefully they’ll beat teams that are pushing us for positions in the five. We were lucky to win today and I mean that.”
Although happy with the performance, it was a familiar tale of being close but not good enough for the Eagles leaving Kilby and his side still searching for the winning result to shake the monkey from their back.
“Our scrum was solid all day and the line-out was really good at the start,” he said
“We rushed when we were under pressure - we need to slow it back down and take control of the pace of the game again.
“We let ourselves down a bit with discipline and the only territory they got was through kicking or poor discipline which allowed them in.
“We need to carry this level of play up to Dubbo next week and hopefully get our first win.”
CSU 25 (Mitch Brown, Cam Backhouse 2, William Griffiths tries; Jack Garrard 1 pen, 1 conv) defeated Cowra 17 (Adam Meiklejohn try; Mick Sheehy 4 pens).