The Dayboro Cowboys remain undefeated in the Intech Men’s Open 1 competition with a hard fought 20-6 victory over Wests Mitchelton Panthers at Kev McKell Oval last Saturday.
The Cowboys - led by captain / coach Kane Zalewski - showed why they are the red-hot premiership favourites this season, outclassing the Panthers in what can only be described as a hard, physical match.
Speedster Blain Cleghorn opened the scoring in the 12th minute, latching onto a perfect pass that saw the flyer go in unopposed.
The Cowboys found their scoring groove once again when halfback Brent Warr sent in Cleghorn for his second try in the 20th minute, seeing the visitors edge out to an early 8-0 lead.
A glut of drop ball frustrated both coaches, with the majority of the first half plagued by poor ball-handling from both sides.
But there were some good tussles between both sides with Dayboro’s experienced Rodwell Faapito and Mitchelton’s Josh Andrew having a running battle out wide that showed why both centres are extremely dangerous with the ball in this competition.
However, the physicality of the game really stood out with the defence from both sides at times brutal.
Cowboys enforcers Cody Heathwood and Tyler Isdale were superb for the visitors, dishing out some punishing hits to the Panthers forwards on what was an unusually hot autumn’s afternoon.
Mitchelton - who were rattled early on - dusted off the cobwebs and had three separate chances to score before the break, only to be met by a brick wall of Cowboys defenders and go into the sheds trailing 8-0 at the break.
A rejuvenated Panthers had obviously taken on board coach Clint Dolan’s words in the shed, as they started to piece together some superb set plays of their own.
Mitchelton halfback Jack Walsh was dangerous with the ball, as was hooker Ethan Pringle, who was making great yards out of dummy half.
However, the Cowboys also came out to play and returned serve with some classy moves of their own, led by the experience of Zalewski, Faapito and Warr.
In the 49th minute, Dayboro crossed again under the sticks after some great lead up work by Faapito and fullback Zach Lister.
Zalewski’s kicking game was once again on song, with the halfback one of the premier players in the competition.
Having kept the Panthers scoreless thus far in the game, Dayboro let their guard down in the 56th minute when winger Brandon Reading crossed for the home side's first and only try.
The Panthers were still working hard up the middle through Aaron Vessey and Nathan Cameron, but it was the brute force of the Cowboys defence that was halting any further progress.
Subsequent attacks by the Panthers failed to find anymore chinks in the Cowboys armour and it was the visitors who had the last say in the game.
Hard-working Cowboys prop Aiden Sullivan was well deserved of the final four-pointer of the day when he crashed his way over the line to plant the ball under the sticks in what was a highly entertaining game of rugby league.