A mix of A Grade and Under 20s players from the Central Highlands were put through their paces against the Central Queensland Capras Under 20s in Theodore at the weekend.
Featuring as a curtain-raiser to the Broncos v Capras clash, it was both teams’ first match of the year and enduring the stifling heat was the first challenge, let alone the encounter.
A Capras error from the kick-off gifted Central Highlands the ball in the first minute, leading to a try on the wing to Jesse Hall.
The Capras hit back five minutes later through Ryan Franks, who crashed over to score and take the lead 6-4.
After quarter-time, both sides were locked in an arm wrestle until Tyson Pope broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second quarter, receiving a pin-point cut-out pass from five-eight Jack White.
The Capras crossed once again just before the break with Ryan Flintham stepping the goal-line defence to dive over and give his side an 18-4 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the sheds after the break, both teams grinded away for the first 10 minutes, until Tom Murray crossed for Central Highlands following a penalty close to the Capras' goal line.
Trailing 18-10, it was the sniff the visitors needed, but the Capras ensured the shut-out continued with a skilful dummy-half scoot near the line from Jack Pattie to give his side a 24-10 lead going into three-quarter time.
In the final period, both teams completed their sets and defended well for a majority of the quarter though an injury to Central Highlands player Hayden Brownsey left the goal-line defensive line short and Connor McGarry capitalised, sealing the deal for the Capras.
At fulltime, the Capras secured their first win of the year 30-10 over a resilient Central Highlands outfit.
Speaking post-match to The Morning Bulletin, Capras Under 20s co-coach Damien Seibold said he was pleased with the performance.
"It was a really good hit-out and I’m happy with where I’m at,” he said.
"Our fitness was good. We finished each quarter strongly and it did appear the game was opening up and opportunities were presenting themselves.
"We played really well but the biggest positive is knowing that there's a lot we can improve on before Round 1.”
Central Highlands Men’s coach Matt Pacey believes despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to take away from the match.
“With the Capras Under 20s sticking to an obvious game plan of playing through the middle and Central Highlands only having a three-reserve rotation on our bench, the work load was distributed well in the hot conditions,” Pacey said.
“It’s a credit to a few of our Central Highlands Under 20s who joined the invitational team at short notice and they didn’t look out of place.
“Mistakes were made, but that is why we play trial matches, and this was a good platform for the squad as we prepare for the 47th Battalion in May.
“Thanks to the Capras for the game as they begin to put a real focus back into having a presence in all areas of Central Queensland.”
In the other matches of the day, Emerald Brothers defeated Biloela in both the Under 15 and Under 17 clashes, Theodore impressed at home with a win against Woorabinda and the Broncos held on to win 16-6 over the Capras.
CQ CAPRAS U20s 30 (Ryan Franks, Tyson Pope, Ryan Flintham, Jack Pattie, Connor McGarry tries; Tyson Pope 5 goals) defeated CENTRAL HIGHLANDS 10 (Jesse Hall, Tom Murray tries; Ray Ebsworth goal)