The Nyngan Tigers have overcome a number of key absences to record an important 26-16 win over the Narromine Jets on Sunday.
The Tigers were without captain-coach Stuart Mills, as well as Reece Goldsmith, Sam Simmons and Crete Walker from the starting side.
As a result play was a bit disjointed at times, with errors and a woeful completion rate – something that will need to be seriously addressed in coming weeks – allowing Narromine to stay in the game.
The absence of those key players meant others had to step up, and step up they did.
Rob Gudgeon was a shining light at fullback. He was superb under the high ball, flawless under pressure and made ground each time he ran the ball up.
In the forward pack, Tunui Maurangi and Norman Fuiava also stepped up to lead by example, taking the hit-ups and making some serious metres.
Fuiava was particularly strong and was a real handful for the Jets as his powerful runs put the Tigers on the front foot in attack.
Troy Evans, Jacob Neill, Todd Rope, Mitchell Rixon and Jone Yacadrau all crossed for tries, while Tuiloma Atuau converted three from five with the boot.
The victory catapulted the Tigers into second place on the Group 11 ladder, after the result between Dubbo CYMS and the Parkes Spacemen played into Nyngan’s hands.
It was CYMS’ tenth straight victory, and the competition leaders recorded an impressive 42-22 win over the Spacemen who had been second going into the round.
The loss drops the Spacemen into fourth, after they were leapfrogged on the ladder by the Tigers as well as the Forbes Magpie, who defeated the Macquarie Raiders 22-10 at Caltex Park.
CYMS now sit five points clear at the top of the Group 11 ladder, followed by the Nyngan Tigers (15 points) and Forbes Magpies and Parkes Spacemen (14).
But it won’t be long before Nyngan will have to defend their position, with the Tigers facing a difficult run going into the finals.
On Sunday their performance on the road will be tested as they head to Spooner Oval to take on the third place Forbes Magpies, and whichever side wins will lock in second spot on the ladder for the week.
They’ll be tested again the following week when they travel to Parkes, before hosting CYMS in round 13.
Further down the ladder the battle for fifth spot is still well and truly alive, with the Dubbo Macquarie Raiders sitting on seven points, the Wellington Cowboys close behind on six points and the Narromine Jets on four points.
The bottom half of the ladder could be in for a shake-up as early as this weekend.
The Macquarie Raiders are widely tipped to lose in the Dubbo derby against CYMS, while the Narromine Jets could manage an upset over the Wellington Cowboys at Kennard Park.