07/8/2016 - Emus all but wrap up minor premiership with 99-point win over trying Rhinos

ORANGE Emus all but wrapped up the 2016 Blowes Clothing Cup minor premiership at Endeavour Oval on Saturday afternoon by running rings around the lowly Dubbo Rhinos, ultimately romping home 99-0.

Bouyed by hat-tricks from No.8 Scott McLean, five-eighth AJ Sykes and winger Tom Green, Emus ran in 15 tries to none as they fell agonisingly short of hitting triple figures for the first time this season, and the first time in recent memory.

Emus are now 10 points in front of second-placed Forbes and a bonus point away from the minor title.

Forbes can steal the minor title, but for that to happen they’d have to win their final two regular season games with a bonus point and hope Emus lose both of theirs, without bonus points.

Possible, but not realistic.

Appropriately, Emus will have the chance to seal the minor trophy against Forbes in Saturday’s penultimate regular season game.

“It’d be nice to secure that minor title but it’s not something we’ve talked about too much,” McLean said.

Chuffed with the win, the affable No.8 made a point of praising Rhinos’ effort after a number of the club’s second graders were forced to back up in the top grade.

“They showed plenty of heart for the entire 80 minutes, you can’t fault their effort. I know their second graders made ours work hard for their win as well,” McLean said.

“They put some fair shots on in defence too, a few of our boys had sore ribs afterward.”

Simply, Emus outclassed the trying Dubbo side.

The greens scored more than half of their points in the opening period and after rolling their bench on with about 25 to go Emus’ replacements closed the game out well.

McLean said it’s tough to take too much from such a big win, other than some momentum and plenty of confidence.

“It has at least given us an idea of a few of the things we can work on which aren’t quite there yet, we made an effort to work on a few things like kick chase in the last third or so of the game,” McLean said.

“But it was a pretty good performance, it gives us confidence. Our patterns, skills and execution have been really good and were again on Saturday. Some of the opportunities we created and executed were close to our best all year, that gives us confidence.

“Some of the tries were scored were pretty to watch as well.”

McLean reserved special praise for Sykes, who was Emus’ best in the gigantic victory.

“AJ, the wily veteran,” McLean laughed.

“He’s been a massive pick-up for us whether he’s playing 10 or 15. He has a great ball, he feeds our outside guys well and he’s just smart, he makes the right decisions.

“Plus, he’s fast. One of the Rhinos boys made a break in the last 10 minutes, and was seriously quick, but AJ mowed him down which was a huge effort.”

ORANGE EMUS 99 (AJ Sykes 3, Scott McLean 3, Tom Green 3, Nas Havealeta 2, Carter Hirini 2, Alo Finau, Sam Green tries; Nigel Staniforth 9, Zac White 2, Lachie Harris conversions) def DUBBO RHINOS 0

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