Deni Drovers have been knocked off the top of the Southern Inland Rugby Union McMullen Cup ladder following a loss to rival Hay on Saturday.
Hay were impressive on their home turf, with a strong first half leading to a 32-18 win over the Drovers.
Despite the margin the game seemed a lot closer with the Cutters scoring four tries to Drovers’ three, with the goal kicking of Hay’s Mosese Koroi — who landed five shots from six attempts — instrumental in providing the comfortable gap at full-time.
Drovers team manager Ange Coffey said an ankle injury to Zack Thompson in the warm up set the tone for the day.
‘‘It was the usual hard and tough clash you’d expect between both sides,’’ she said.
‘‘Unfortunately we had the disruption of losing Zack and we were just too undisciplined in the first half.
‘‘We did well when we had possession but Hay had the majority of the ball throughout.
‘‘Our second half was much better so there are still plenty of positives to take out of the game.’’
The Drovers’ defence was solid early and it took a lot of pressure to break them.
However, good ball control and relentless attack allowed the Cutters to score twice before the break.
Tries to slippery half back Jack McGrath, a bullocking try to Manning Doughty, a conversion and two penalty goals by full back Koroi put the Cutters in control in the first half.
The Drovers troubled the Cutters with strong rucking by the big forward pack of Ben Howitt and Con Thasilanos, with Jay Parker scoring a good try to put the visitors on the board to trail 18-5 at half time.
The match was played on the edge and threatened to explode at any moment, with tempers flaring right on half time.
Cutters’ Jack Hanna and Drovers’ Tjunda Keefe went blow for blow, and the incident looked likely to escalate before the referee calmed play and dispatched the combatants to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
The second half was a continuation of the rugged first half, with tough tackling and strong rucking.
The Drovers hit the scoreboard with second half tries posted by veteran Peter Gow and centre Staci Richardson while tries to Billy Nadin and five eighth James Graham saw the Cutters hold their lead.
The Drovers pegged back the margin with a penalty goal to close out the game.
Drovers’ votes went to Chris TePoka (three), Veni Mahe (two) and Matthew Shaw (one). Players’ player was awarded to Brennen Hall.