Western Rams score Country Championships win over Greater Northern Tigers

IMPRESSIVE: Brad McMillan was strong for the Rams in Saturday's win over the Northern Tigers. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE.
IMPRESSIVE: Brad McMillan was strong for the Rams in Saturday's win over the Northern Tigers. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE.

For the Western Rams men's side, Saturday was all about putting things right.

The Rams were never able to showcase anything they were capable of in a 52-16 loss to Monaro in round one of the Country Championships, but on Saturday at Gulgong's Billy Dunn Oval pride was restored.

An attacking first half effort set the platform for 42-24 win over the Greater Northern Tigers and the result was a hugely satisfying one for coach Cameron Greenhalgh, the players, and all involved with the squad.

"We had a few chats in our group chat this week and we said we wanted to knuckle down and work hard for each other and show pride in this jersey," halfback Nick Greenhalgh, who was one of Western's best in the win, said after full-time.

"I'm pretty sure we did put some pride back in the jersey."

Playing for the famed Western jersey was mentioned in the lead-up to Saturday's match by Rams hooker Isaac Thompson while there was plenty of motivation within the squad after captain Alex Ronayne said the performance against Monaro "let down" supporters.

The intent was clear early on against the Tigers and it took just two minutes before a slick right-to-left move went through plenty of hands and was finished by winger CJ Ralph in the corner.

However, just minutes later the Rams suffered a blow when Ronayne was briefly knocked out when attempting a tackle.

The head knock was a nasty one and rather than return to the match, the Rams skipper ended up in hospital to check any potential mouth injuries and he didn't step back on the field.

The Tigers, featuring former NRL player Liam Foran, were next to score as the Rams regrouped and while Thompson went over easily from dummyhalf on 15 minutes to help his side get back to a 12-6 lead, it was only three minutes later when Greater Northern's Bailey Taylor sliced through some soft defence and it was all level again.

But for the rest of the first half it was all about Western, as the lively Thompson grabbed a second after going himself close to the line again before Brad McMillan, the veteran workhorse summoned from the bench to replace Ronayne, crossed.

McMillan crossed in style, after Greenhalgh had got the ball back after putting centre Jackson Brien into space and then it was a simple case of drawing in the fullback and sending the back-rower over.

The Rams weren't done for the first half though, and on 31 minutes fullback Mitch Andrews sliced through against the angle when the Rams were moving the ball right and jinked his way over.

Greenhalgh's fourth successful conversion made it 30-12 at the break.

"We strung a few things together there and put a nice lead on the board," the halfback said.

"We said at half-time we'd need to come out firing because we knew they would.

"They really worked hard in the last 40 but we set it up in that first 40."

Former NSW Country player Greenhalgh set-up the opening two tries of the second stanza as some neat hands put McMillan in for his second on 53 minutes before a pinpoint crossfield kick led to winger Zeke Hartwig planting the ball down and the lead growing to 42-12.

In hot conditions, the match petered out late and the Tigers salvaged some pride by crossing twice inside the final four minutes through Jacob Button and Lincoln Smith to make it 44-24 at the final siren.

"The last 10 didn't reflect how we played but I'm very proud of the boys," Greenhalgh said, adding the loss of Ronayne only provided more motivation.

"Aka (Ronayne) is a big part of Western and he's been a big part of Group 11 and he'll be a big part of this new competition.

"To lose our captain and a bloke of his calibre early was disappointing but the boys said 'let's do it for Aka' and I was pleased with how they reacted and we'll go see how the big fella is."

Greenhalgh was one of a number of Western players to impress.

Regular Rams standouts Andrews, Brien and Jake Betts were again reliable while McMillan and Corey Cox also got through plenty of work.

The win wasn't enough for secure the Rams a place in the Country Championships semi-finals, but it was part of a successful day at Billy Dunn Oval as Western's under 18s and women's sides also defeated the Tigers.

WESTERN RAMS 42 (Isaac Thompson 2, Brad McMillan 2, CJ Ralph, Mitch Andrews, Zeke Hartwig tries; Nick Greenhalgh 6 goals) defeated GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS 22 (Harlee Milgate, Bailey Taylor, Jacob Button, Lincoln Smith tries; Mitchell Doring 4 goals)