It only took a minute on the field for Elly Hazelton to show why she is one of the Monaro Colts' most valuable players.
The Colts took on the Western Rams on Sunday in Canberra, in the first round of the NSW Country Championships.
Monaro began the 2020 competition in with two victories before it was called off due to COVID-19. On Sunday, there was a clear urgency to continue that winning form, but the Colts had been hamstrung by a shortened pre-season.
"It was our first game after four weeks of training, everyone was just stressed," Hazelton said.
The Goulburn resident battled with nerves prior to the game, largely due to a change of position from fullback - where she has played for almost all of her league career - to the second row.
However, that anxious energy was quickly dispelled when she crossed for the first try of the match in just over a minute.
"It was pretty exciting, it gave me a bit of confidence because I was pretty nervous about it," Hazelton said.
"I've never been in the defensive line before, and getting back ten [metres] before every play takes it out of you."
When Hollie Massey converted the try to put the Colts up 6-0, a thrashing felt imminent. But at that point, the Rams put their organisation and composure on display, and their defence proved near impenetrable for the rest of the first half.
The visitors to Raiders Belconnen responded with two tries of their own to take the lead, 8-6, by the half time break, along with much of the momentum.
That first try, Hazelton said, might have served to fire up the Rams. That, combined with the Colts' own issues with injury during the game, put them on the back foot.
"I think we lit a firework in their backside unfortunately," she said.
"Our fullback unfortunately got injured, so we had to have a replacement. You usually don't sub a fullback, so it was a matter of adjusting there."
Despite the sharp swing in the run of play, Hazelton said the Monaro players were upbeat during the break.
"Going into half time, our chat was just so positive," Hazelton said.
Once the second half resumed, Monaro played like women possessed. Their line speed was improved and they ran at the Rams defenders with renewed intensity.
Though the visitors' defence held up for a period, the Colts were relentless and eventually crossed for a second try to snatch the lead back.
Up by four points, Monaro clutched the momentum and seemed destined to pile on a lead. But the Rams' resilience shone through, and they soon broke through the Colts' line for another try to tie up the game.
Increasingly desperate attempts to score from both sides repeatedly failed, and the clock eventually ran out with the score at 12-12.
Though they missed out on a first round win, Hazelton said the team was heartened.
"It was hard, with the hot weather," she said.
"The changerooms were hot and sweaty from the get-go. We've only been training for four weeks, so getting a come-from-behind draw, we're pretty proud of that."
The women's match was played after the Monaro men took on the Rams. Unlike their female counterparts, the Colts men claimed a narrow 18-14 victory.
The only Goulburn representative in the men's team, Dillon Rota, was not selected in the team for the first round.
This weekend, both senior Monaro teams will play against the Macarthur Wests Tigers at Kirkham Park. The men will get underway from 1pm, with the women to follow at 2.40pm.
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