The Deniliquin Rams suffered their heaviest loss of the Murray League season on Saturday, succumbing to a polished Numurkah by eight goals at the Hardinge St oval.
It was a luckless start for the home side who lost veteran defender Anthony Bull with a groin strain during the warm-up and had to bring ruckman John Allitt up from the reserves for his second match of the day.
The young Rams showed plenty of promise in the first half, having as many scoring shots as the Blues to trail by just 10 points at the main break.
But after half time the visitors powered ahead, flexing their stronger bodies, while injuries took their toll on the Rams who were without an interchange player in the last quarter.
The Blues kicked 11 goals in the second half with full forward Nathan Hicks slotting his sixth goal for the day after the final siren to put the icing on the cake.
Final score, Numurkah 17.8 (110) to Deni Rams 9.8 (62).
Rams co-coach Sam Hall said he could not be disappointed with his side’s efforts in the round 11 contest.
‘‘Numurkah are a strong, hard-bodied side, and as the game wore on that really showed. I thought our guys battled really bravely and could hold their heads high. There were plenty of positives to take out of the game,’’ Hall said.
‘‘The margin was eight goals but it seemed closer than that. We’re a young, developing side and all we’re asking from our players is a contribution from everyone, and I thought we got that.
‘‘We had John Allitt come up for a second game after losing Bully and we didn’t have a bench in the last quarter; a lot of our blokes were out on their feet.
‘‘But to our credit we kept fighting until the end and that’s been the pleasing part. We’re not throwing in the towel and letting the score blow out.
‘‘I thought eight goals was okay and I think Numurkah will be a top four side.
‘‘Probably the only disappointing part for mine was some of our basic skill errors by foot. We didn’t take some opportunities that came our way which is something we’ll continue to work on.’’
The Blues kicked the first three goals of the game - two coming from the boot of Hicks - and it looked like it could by a very tough day ahead for the blue and gold.
But Deni settled and started to find some footy in the midfield, with wingman Ryan MacDonald and onballer Rick Gittens both finding the goals.
Numurkah kicked another goal but a late major to full forward Adrian Pappin closed the margin to six points at the first break.
The second term was one of the Rams’ best for the season. Kicking against the wind the home side had most of the play but failed to capitalise on the scoreboard, slotting 1.3 for the term to Numurkah’s 2.1 to trail by 10 points at half time.
Debutant Allitt kicked Deni’s only goal for the term after marking strongly on an angle about 10m out.
It was a free-flowing third term where Numurkah lifted the intensity. The Blues piled on a couple of early goals but a snap from the boundary from about 40m out from Pappin and a downfield free kick and another 50m penalty put first-gamer Blair Sartore on the goal-line and the Rams were still in touch.
But Blues coach Jye Warren got his side going, rebounding off half back and through the midfield and Michael Herlihy got dangerous up forward as Numurkah slotted six goals for the term to Deni’s three.
The Rams trailed by five goals at three quarter time but injury and fatigue took its toll as the visitors powered home with five goals in the last stanza.
Gittens, John Anstee, Ryan Brunker, MacDonald and brothers Nick and Clay Howe were Deni’s better players through the midfield, while Brayden Hall marked strongly all day starting down back and going forward later in the game. Pappin continued his good form with three goals from full forward.
Warren, Herlihy (four goals), Hicks and ruckman Mitch Price were the best for Numurkah.
It was a different story in the reserves, with the Rams posting their biggest win for the year over a winless Blues outfit.
The home side piled on 16 goals for the match with big man Hamish Ross kicking four goals from full forward and Shane Werner and Ben Nisbet chipping in with three majors each.
Jonty Tubb made a welcome return after 12 months off recovering from a knee reconstruction, named best afield dominating through the midfield for the Rams.
Jake McManus dominated the marking duels from centre half forward after also returning from a long injury lay-off.
Other good players for the home side were Logan Ives and Alec Buckley.
Final score, Deniliquin 16.13 (109) to Numurkah 3.3 (21).