BEATING the defending premiers for a third time this season and strengthening their hold on second spot – that is the mission for Bathurst Bulldogs come this Saturday afternoon.
Since falling 20-18 to Forbes in last season’s Blowes Clothing Cup preliminary final, the Bulldogs have gotten the better of the Platypi.
A 23-19 win at Ashwood Park in round three was backed up with a 41-12 success at Grinstead Oval in June, those results a positive sign for Bulldogs coach Dean Oxley.
But he also knows just how hard his side had to fight for the first win and that Forbes was below strength in the rematch. It means it is expecting nothing other than 80 minutes of intense rugby at Ashwood Park on Saturday.
“Forbes are a strong side and they were hurting when we saw them at Forbes. They had a few injuries at that time and being the premiers, they were very disappointed at that loss,” Oxley said.
“No doubt they will be looking to come down and really get a win back.
“We’ve beaten them twice this year and that wouldn’t be sitting very well with that club given they have largely dominated us in recent years.”
Bulldogs currently sit 17 points clear of fourth-placed Forbes with just three defeats through 12 rounds of the 2018 season.
The most recent of those losses – a 26-25 defeat to frontrunners Orange Emus – means the Bathurst outfit is unlikely to finish as minor premiers. Yet Oxley did take positives from that performance as his men very nearly overcame a 19-3 half-time deficit.
“I don’t believe Emus took the game from us, I believe we gave it to them. That’s my interpretation of it, we just need to do better and make sure we make better decisions,” he said.
“It was a great game and I think we got as much out of that loss as we would a win. Yes, it gives us no chance at this point to become minor premiers, but if we can maintain our position in second – that’s the goal now.”
Just as Bulldogs are working towards a major semi-final spot, Forbes is trying to boost its finals chances as well. It is only the Platypi’s superior for and against record which sees them hold fourth ahead of Dubbo Kangaroos.
“It will be a tough game, but it’s a game at home which is excellent. Winning at home is something we’ve prided ourselves on,” Oxley said.
“It’s very clear what they are going to do and they do it very well, they play a very tight forward game. Mahe [Fangupo] directs them very well, he was the country player of the year for the Country Championships, so he’s going to be a threat.
“They have some very strong backs, and [centre] Jack Hammond, he was also in that Central West side and I know exactly what he can do.
“They have got the strike and they’ve also got the forward power. Charlie French had an outstanding game when we played them up at Forbes, and so we have to be able to equalise what they are going to throw at us and also stick to our process.
“But another hard game will only prepare us for the semi-final encounter we are going to be facing.”
Kick-off at Ashwood Park is 3.15pm on Saturday.