THE under 18 Western Division side capped off a stellar 2017 campaign on Saturday with a 32-18 win over their Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia counterparts at Carrington Park.
The Rams produced the same sort of football which helped them to be crowned Country champions earlier this year as they opened scoring in the seventh minute and from there did not surrender their lead.
While the visiting Azzuri side still made them work hard for the win, getting within four points of the lead in the second half, the Rams responded to the pressure with renewed effort.
“They came to play, they were big, they were mobile. They’re everything we’d played against in the Country Championships and then probably a little bit more,” Rams coach Cameron Greenhalgh said of his rivals.
“I can’t rap my boys enough, obviously on a warm day and with some of them having had a few weeks off coming into this game. We trained really well during the week and that showed today.
“Maybe if we lost this game, then the championship mightn’t have meant as much, but we got what we wanted today and we all worked hard.”
It was Dubbo CYMS lock Jack Davis who opened scoring for the Rams when he charged onto a nice short ball, his club-mate Mat Burton then adding the extras with an assist from the upright.
The lead was doubled soon after as fullback Charlie Stanies scored on the back of a line drop-out.
On 20 minutes the Rams once again forced a line drop out, but this time they coughed up possession and FIRLA counter-attacked. Dane Oostendorpo made a weaving run to carry the ball over halfway before fullback Joseph Romeo crossed.
However, FIRLA then let the resulting kick-off bounce dead in goal to put the hosts back into attack. The Rams took the chance as a cut-out ball put Daniel Stanley over in the right corner.
That made it 16-6 to the Rams at half-time.
Four minutes after play resumed the Azzuri once again responded and once again to was Romeo who crossed after a Oostendorpo line break.
Rams skipper Darby Medlyn came up with a quick reply to make it 22-12, but his side suffered a blow when hooker Jaiden Burke was forced from the field with an arm injury.
Azzuri mistakes helped the Rams push ahead 26-12 when Jackson Bonham-Phair crossed following a penalty, but there was more drama to come.
FIRLA halfback Joel Saldaneri put Mathew Frijo over with five minutes left after picking up ground through a penalty to make it 26-18, then his side went on the attack again.
The visitors managed to create an overlap on the wing and looked set to score once more, but Jordan Giovenco could not hang onto the final pass.
Having survived that scare, the Rams made sure of the result with a minute left on the clock as Burton ran away to score following a Staines line break.
Second rower Luke Gale added the extras to make it a 32-18 win which had his coach smiling.
“We did give them a couple of piggy-backs at times, but we were tidy in defence, it was excellent. Their scramble has always been good all year and we’ve built that side around defence,” Greenhalgh said.
WESTERN RAMS 32 (Charlie Staines, Daniel Stanley, Matt Burton, Darby Medlyn, Jack Davis, Jackson Bonham-Phair tries; Matt Burton 3, Luke Gale goals) defeated FEDERATION OF ITALIA RUGBY LEAGUE AUSTRALIA 18 (Joseph Romeo 2, Mathew Frijo tries; Joel Saldaneri 3 goals)
“We know that with the skill we have, if we get our defence right, we can beat any side.
“It was a great way for us to finish off the year.”