A double to Blowes Clothing Cup top grade debutant Luke Stunden and a surprisingly impressive set-piece gifted Orange City a comfortable 38-10 win over Cowra on Saturday.
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In the opening round of the 2017 season, the Lions hit the front mid-way through the first term thanks to Stunden’s maiden five-pointer in the top grade and were never headed at Pride Park, despite the Eagles boasting a midfield most clubs in the central west will envy.
Outside centre John Grant has played Rugby Sevens for Australia, while Tom Dewhurst is as reliable a No.12 as there is the region.
But opposing centres Cameron Logan and Jake Davis out-pointed the Eagles’ duo, the latter the best player on the field as the Lions rolled to a six-tries-to-two thumping of Cowra.
The other talking point was the Lions’ scrum, which has been sub-par the last two seasons.
Against one of the biggest packs in central west, Orange City’s tight five of Darcy Garlick, Chris Senior, Joe Blunt, Scott Smith and Dennis Kavas were brilliant, winning three tighthead scrums at Pride Park.
“It’s the best scrum we’ve had in two or three years ... and against Cowra, a team that’s renowned to be a set-piece side,” Lions coach Steve Hamson said.
It was that dominance and typically stout City defence from a largely new-look Lions outfit that laid the foundation for the bonus-point victory at home.
“(Cowra) had a lot of ball at our end, and we just said we don’t want to talk about teams gone by, but defence is what teams build a legacy by,” Hamson said, alluding to premiership sides in 2012 and 2013 that boasted wall-like lines.
“That desire in defence was there. John Grant got away once, but Barton (Young) ankle-tapped him and Nelly (Tom Nell) got the turnover.
“If your nine and 10 are showing that much desperation in defence that’s a credit to them.
“Our game will evolve and grow as we get into it.”
City built a 24-0 lead before tries to Grant and prop Evan Stanbridge shot the visitors back into the contest.
But a five-pointer to Dave Challis and a second try to Stunden sealed the victory, both touchdowns coming off the back of Eagles errors.
That was a point Cowra head coach Troy Hayes was quick to make.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the year but silly mistakes cost us today,” Hayes said.
“It’s out first hit-out, really, apart from one trial, you expect some mistakes. That’s what happens.”
For the beaten Eagles, lock Tim Berry and No.10 Bill Cummins were strong.
Orange City 38 (Luke Stunden 2, Tom Nell, Darcy Garlick, Dave Challis, Cameron Logan tries; Keegan Harding 4 conv) def Cowra Eagles 10 (John Grant, Evan Stanbridge tries).
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