The Deni Drovers put up a brave fight against Hay, going down 17-10 in the Southern Inland Rugby Union McMullen Cup season opener at Rotary Park on Saturday.
In hot conditions the match was another physical contest between the traditional rivals with the Drovers trailing 10-0 at the break.
The undermanned Drovers battled manfully in the second half scoring two tries to one, but Hay’s solid first half proved the difference.
Despite the loss Drovers coach Joe Gogarty was impressed with his side’s efforts.
‘‘We were a bit complacent in the first half but overall I was happy with how well we formed,’’ he said.
‘‘We blooded in five players who are new to rugby and our front row played out the whole game for the first time in a while.
‘‘We blew three opportunities at tries and fell off a couple of tackles which proved to be a big difference.
‘‘As a first game goes though there was plenty of positives.
‘‘We have some good talent in the back line and with some new players we will probably take at least three weeks to hit our straps.
‘‘Ben Howitt was strong in the front row and Ross Gardiner was really impressive in his first game.
‘‘Ross scored a try with three or four blokes hanging off of him after getting a good break through the line.’’
Howitt scored the Drovers’ other try from close in, earning three votes as well as the players’ player, with other votes going to Gardiner (two) and Erasmus Bothma (one).
The Drovers will now meet Tumut in round two, with the match to be held at Leeton on Saturday.