Bulldogs back in shape after clash with Magpies
PREMIERS Chinchilla have been in debit on the Roma District Rugby League points table for much of the season, and for a while on Sunday it seemed like they were going to slip further into the red.
The club's A-grade difficulties reached almost crisis proportions in substantial losses at three of their previous six games, the latest a 50-point defeat at St George just a fortnight ago.
This is why the team's clash with Mitchell at Bulldog Park at the weekend was so important.
Tommy Dodd's team, fifth on the premiership ladder with 12 points, could ill afford another setback in the struggle to stay in touch with high-flying Roma Cities (20) and Wallumbilla/Surat (16).
Chinchilla made a bright start through centre Neil Hooper's converted try in the ninth minute, the first of three by the big centre, but by half-time the Magpies were ahead 14-6 after tries by Sheldon Martin and two by Kimba Fein.
Chinchilla fans, accustomed to winning in 2018, wondered whether the side's indifferent performances in the current term might continue.
Thankfully, Garrad Brewer, Hooper's centre partner, set the team on the road back eight minutes after the break.
In order, Hooper, twice, and winger Connor Harth crossed the tryline to give Chinchilla a 12-point lead.
Charlie Aikens revived Magpie hopes but there was no way back when livewire hooker Hayden Bender ended the Chinchilla scoring three minutes from the end.
"It's nice to be back in the winner's list,” said Chinchilla secretary Michelle Smith of the 32-20 victory, albeit after an occasionally untidy performance.
"We're getting back to some normalcy.
"We had key players in the team after our earlier problems. That helped.”
She said it was hoped injured first-team regulars Charlie Redgen, Sam Irwin, Aaron Smoothy and Bevan Brown would soon be available, perhaps for the crucial meeting with Cities on Saturday week, after this weekend's bye.
Last Sunday, Cities registered a runaway 72-12 win over St George at Roma's Arthur Beetson Oval, confirming their premiership claims.
St George president Kelvin Bella said they "got our tails kicked by Cities”.
"They are a level above any other team I've seen this year and, allowing that it's early days yet, the others, ours included, are going to have to lift ... and by some way.” Bella said.
"It's obvious Cities are stronger than last season.
"They're well drilled, smart with the ball in hand and with big, strong-runnng forwards.
"Their kicking game makes them even tougher to deal with.
"It didn't help that three of our A-graders dropped out on match morning.
"Realistically I doubt we'd have troubled Cities in any circumstances.
"It's scary to think that they might improve as the season wears on.”
In other games at Bulldog Park: Chinchilla's impressive Under 16s defeated Mitchell 48-16; the Under 18s had a similarly easy win (44-0) over the Magpies.
The one jarring note came in the Reserve-grade match, won 48-16 by the visitors.