HANGING ON: Echidnas went down to the Condamine Cods 18-14 after a hard-fought battle   on Saturday.
HANGING ON: Echidnas went down to the Condamine Cods 18-14 after a hard-fought battle on Saturday. Lucy Rutherford

Penalties prove costly for Echidnas

Rugby Union: While the Echidnas may have been down two men on the field in the late stages of the game, captain Matt Wilkie is making no excuses for the team's loss.

A slow-fought battle between the Echidnas and the Condamine Cods at Bassett Park on Saturday saw the Cods come back from being down 0-7 at half time to seal an 18-14 victory.

"They still had to work for their tries,” Wilkie said.

"They played through their forwards and utilised that when we were men down.

"I think we played well however in patches we let ourselves down through discipline.

"Our set pieces were great but we just couldn't get over the line enough.”

With Lachie McKechnie and Dan Sutherland scoring a try apiece and Ben Bright with two conversions, the Echidnas led 14-0 early in the second half but it wasn't enough after a late surge from the Cods, who scored 18 unanswered points.

"The boys are pretty down and out in all honesty. It's tough losing those close games and asking yourself the 'what if',” Wilkie said.

Regan Tucker (high tackle), Ollie Peak (not rolling away at a ruck) and Cooper Dingle (shoulder charge) all received yellow cards and were sent off for 10 minutes, with two players on the bench at the same time in the second half.

Club president Richard Bright believes momentum swayed back to the Cods in the second half, off the back of a huge penalty count against the Echidnas, 23-3.

"We had 10 minutes of only 13 men on the field who were incredibly fatigued,” he said.

"They were tackling their hearts out and trying to stop them but the Cods put up too strong a battle, keeping the ball away from us.

"Ben Bright, Ben Coulthurst and Dan Sutherland put up a great fight, while Matt Wilkie played his usual strong game in leading the boys.”

Thousands braved the cold at Bassett Park for the annual rugby races to cheer on the Echidnas, place some bets and enjoy a few beverages while decked out in fabulous fashions.

"The rugby races makes for a great atmosphere and there's always a good-sized crowd that shows up to support us,” Bright said.

Playing against USQ in a home game on Saturday will have the boys working on their discipline in training this week, as well as improving their ruck form to avoid giving away penalties.

"It's always hard to predict how we'll go because it seems all the teams are pretty evenly matched this year,” Bright said.

"The Cods are fifth on the ladder while we're second and they won the game, so just shows it's about how you play on the day.

Bright believes, with the boys being good mates off the field, the side has established the consistency in performance that has led to the Echidnas' stellar season.

"Footy's ultimately not the be all and end all. It's about playing hard both on and off the field and we're lucky to have a great bunch of boys who get on so well,” he said.

"It's about playing our game and sticking to our game,” Wilkie said.



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