In bleak and miserable conditions on Saturday, the Cooma Red Devils season got off to a tough start, losing both reserve and first grade matches to Goulburn in Goulburn.
The match was made more challenging for the Cooma side after having an interrupted start to the season, with the first two rounds being washed out then having the Easter break meaning Cooma had no match fitness whereas Goulburn had already played two games.
In the first grade match, both sides started strongly but after five minutes it was Goulburn who got first points.
After securing a turnover at a break down, they spread the ball wide and scored an easy try in the corner. This spurred Cooma into action, strengthening their defence, and some strong runs from Pat Egan, Jimmy Nichols and Sam Hand who was backing up after playing a whole game in second grade.
Goulburn capitalised on Cooma errors and with the wind at their backs kicked two long range penalty goals to extend their lead.
Cooma reduced the lead when Ben Neilson crashed over in his first game back in a number of years. Ryan Morgan added the extras and Cooma was back in the game.
Goulburn stepped up their intensity going into half time but strong defence from Tommy Maxwell, Ryan Morgan and Phil Johnson shut down their attacking raids. Half time saw Goulburn leading but Cooma was well and truly in the game.
The second half saw the Devils step up and with strong kick returns from the new back three of Matthew Moxon, Nick Keighley and Steven Boate, got Cooma into good field position.
Cooma's Pat Egan soon scored and with another successful conversion Cooma reduced the deficit to 24-14. Cooma's match fitness was tested and in the last 20 minutes Goulburn scored four late tries to run away with the game 51-14.
Points in first grade, 1 James Strange, 2 Tom Maxwell, 3 Pat Egan and Jimmy Nichols and players player Matthew Moxon.
Reserve grade took to the field not having yet trained as a full squad but with plenty of enthusiasm were ready to take on the team who defeated them in the last year's grand final. Both sides started with great intensity. Strong defence was the key.
Cooma's defence was well lead by Adam Schubert, Cade Graf and Damo Allen in the forwards while the new centre pairing of Mat Crowley and James 'Boo' Ewart were very good in shutting down the Goulburn back line and both were strong in attack when Cooma had the ball.
Goulburn scored an unconverted try after 20 minutes but Cooma hit back with a penalty goal to Nathan Boate, to make the score 5-3 to Goulburn. Cooma had chances to score on the back of strong runs from Pat Egan, Nick Keighley and Alex Moon who was playing flanker for the first time. Goulburn went into the break leading 5-3.
After half time Cooma was unable to get the clean ball needed to create pressure with Goulburn forwards spoiling the Devils ball and being more effective with their clean outs.
Goulburn scored two late tries to make the final score 17-3. Points in reserve grade 1 point Nathan Boate, 2 Mat Crowley, 3 Adam Schubert and Players player was Mitch Doyle who had a good game at full back.