The Goulburn Dirty Reds women suffered their first ever defeat on Saturday, against the Tuggeranong Viqueens in a match which could have gone either way.
From the outset, the Goulburn women were playing catch-up as Tuggeranong scored two tries in the first minutes of the game at Poidevin Oval.
However, the momentum then changed and Goulburn controlled the next 40 minutes of play. In this period, the home side scored two tries to bring them within four points of the lead.
"They hit us hard early with their size and experience, and the girls got knocked around - we picked up three or four injuries in the first ten minutes which didn't help," women's co-coach Rob Sheekey said.
"To the girls' credit, they came back out-enthused and ran over the top of them. If the first half had been five minutes longer, we probably could have led at half time."
The Viqueens are one of the most experienced and physically largest sides in the competition, and were always an imposing prospect for Goulburn.
As the newest side to the 15s competition, expectations were middling for the Dirty Reds women. But Sheekey's appraisal of his team's performance on Saturday was glowing.
"We came up against a side who has played in this competition for many years, they've been the pinnacle of the women's premier league for a long time," Sheekey said.
"This is our second game of 15-a-side rugby, so I couldn't be prouder of the effort. They were outsized, they were out-experienced, and they gave them everything they possibly could. I can't ask for more than that."
By half time, the score was 14-5 in favour of the visitors, but when the Dirty Reds scored quickly after the break, the difference fell to four points and the home team carried the momentum.
But the Viqueens would not relinquish control so easily, and showing the quality they possessed, they wrested possession back and scored twice more before the end of the match to claim a 24-10 victory.
"These things happen in rugby, and Tuggeranong are a good side. They showed their experience late," Sheekey said.
"They've got a lot of Brumbies players in their side, and those players really stepped up late in that game.
"We've got two or three Brumbies players, but they haven't had a lot of game time, whereas they've got some starters in the Brumbies team."
The focus going forward for the Dirty Reds, Sheekey said, will be improving their skills to match their heart.
"We came to this competition with the aim to make the semis," he said.
"We've got to set our sights higher than that now. We've shown that we can hang with some of the better sides, and we've got to get better and keep improving and keep turning up with that sort of effort.
"It was the first real hard hit-out they've had over 70 minutes, and they'll be better for it."
This Saturday, August 8, the Dirty Reds women will take on the Uni-Norths Owls at ANU North Oval from 1.40pm.
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