Sunshine Cowboys will look back on their excruciating 26-22 defeat to the Pakenham Eels in the NRL Victoria second grade season opener as one that got away.

The Cowboys were in the lead most of the way at Bruce Comben Reserve on Saturday, but were let down by their failure to execute what coaching co-ordinator Grant Paaka described as the “one per centers”.

“We led most of the game, but some of the basic fundamentals of the game sort of let the boys down a little bit,” Paaka said.

Sunshine’s ball security in the second half left a lot to be desired.

The Cowboys tried to be brave in attack, but unnecessarily so, welcoming the Eels back into the contest.

“We were pushing unnecessary offloads early in the count,” Paaka said. “We chanced our arm a bit too much.”

Running into a strong breeze in the second half, the Cowboys struggled to execute their kicking game. Defensively, they were often out of position when the kicks went up.

Swayn Rakete. Picture Luke Hemer.

Photo Galley: Sunshine Cowboys vs Pakenham Eels 

That was partly to do with not reading the conditions and a side with a high volume of turnover trying to understand the structures of player-coach Rikki Mackey.

“Kicking into the wind in the second half was a bit of a hindrance,” Paaka said.

“Better positioning from our guys would’ve helped – we could’ve prevented a couple of tries.”

“It seemed like a couple of tries we were just beaten by the wind.”

Sunshine fans can be encouraged by what they saw from their team, despite all the minor faults.

The Cowboys have some brave ball runners who will strike fear into opposition defences and defensively their forward pack was rock solid.

“We had a lot of strong ball carriers,” Paaka said.

“We also defended well, especially in the middle of the field.

“We might need to work a bit on the defence on the edges, but there were a lot of positive signs for the team.

“I think it’s going to be a good year once the chemistry settles and some of the new boys start to get familiar with structures and club culture.

“They should be better for it come next week and moving forward.”

Mike Hurinui showed he has still got game.

The veteran playing president was superb at half-back for Sunshine.

“He’s still running around,” Paaka said. “He directed the team around the field.”

Mackey led by example for his team in the second row.

He marched the team down the field with some barnstorming runs on multiple
occasions.

“He laid a foundation and the boys built off it,” Paaka said.

Sunshine will hit the road to take on the Doveton Steelers in the second round on Saturday.

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