It’s a cliche often thrown around in football but on Saturday, the scoreline certainly didn’t reflect the scoreboard when the Dubbo Rhinos hosted defending Blowes Clothing Cup premiers Orange Emus.
When the final whistle was blown the scoreline read 68-3 in favour of the visitors but most of the damage was done late in the contest.
Both sides were rusty in patches but in the end it was the combinations formed by Emus over many seasons that ultimately clicked and saw them run in 10 tries in a perfect start to the defence of their title.
“If you’d said to me that we’d come to Dubbo in round one and walk away with a 68-3 scoreline I would have taken that,” Emus skipper Nigel Staniforth said.
“To their credit though, the Rhinos played a hard contest. They ran hard, tackled hard and have definitely improved.
“We were obviously pretty rusty, but I thought we were much more patient in the second half than we were in the first, and we’re pretty fit so we were able to put some points on the board late.
“Our goal is to be there in the finals again. It’s only early in the season so we don’t know how strong the competition will be, but we’ve made the best start possible today
For the opening quarter of the match the Rhinos were the better team, and a Harris Solomon penalty gave them a 3-0 lead early.
But the hosts failed to take advantage of having a man advantage after Emus lock Sam McLean was sin-binned, and shortly after he returned to the field Nick Hughes-Clapp gave the visitors a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Further five-pointers to Carter Hirini, who finished with a hat-trick, and Andrew Selwood, had Emus up 21-3 at the main break.
The second half never reached any great heights, although a bruising hit by Hughes-Clapp that forced an error was the catalyst for a sensational 70m try by the visitors, one of seven they would cross for in the final 40 minutes.
Rhinos coach Dave Stuart, while disappointed in the final score, praised his troops for their effort.
“We’ve got a lot of new blokes playing for us, and it’s never easy when you have the defending champs first up,” he said.
“But I’m proud of the boys. They never gave up, they hit hard and the stuff that we didn’t do well we can work on and get better at as we train more.
“I thought we got worked over in our scrum, and our lineout was a bit shaky as well but Emus are the premier team in the competition for a reason. They got us late in both halves as we tired a bit but we’ll be better for that game.”