DEFENCE - it's a word that St Pat's coach Kevin Grimshaw has mentioned a lot so far this season, but after his side posted a 32-8 win over Orange CYMS in Wednesday night's Western Youth League match at Carrington Park it is easy to understand why.
The willingness and organisation of the Saints defence - especially when under pressure on their own line - was decisive. They constantly repelled a CYMS outfit which boasted plenty of size in the forward pack and talent in the back line.
Across the three hours of football the under 18 Saints have played so far this season they have conceded just 15 points. Considering that they've played in pouring rain and dewy and slippery conditions under lights adds further merit to those efforts.
"They're working together, I won't say I'm astounded because I know what they can do, but they're in the grind and working together for this," Grimshaw said.
"They are backing their defence more this year than they were last year - I'd say we're probably a 20-point defensive side this year.
"I think it's to do with their maturity. A lot of the players were bottom age last year and they were good, but they weren't used to that contact, contact, contact. Now they love the stuff."
They are backing their defence more this year than they were last year - I'd say we're probably a 20-point defensive side this year.Kevin Grimshaw
When that strong defence is combined with the attacking flair that the Saints' spine of hooker Jack O'Neill, fullback Ash Cosgrove and halfback Tyler Colley bring, it makes the blue and whites very hard to beat.
It was something CYMS discovered on Wednesday night.
Though it was all square at 4-all at the end of the first quarter - O'Neill diving over from dummy half after a strong charge from prop Josh Hanrahan before CYMS replied via Ollie Hoskings - in the second period the gap opened.
Just 36 seconds into the second quarter Cosgrove scored, the fullback then making it a double in the 22nd minute as he backed up Colley after a line break.
When another brilliant piece of work by Hanrahan - charging at the line, sucking in defenders, then getting an off-load away - led to Noah Cooney going over in the left corner, it took the score to 16-4 at half-time.
Early in the second half Cosgrove had his hat-trick with the best try of the night. Taking possession in the left corner, he made a brilliant run, stepping and fending his way across field, probing for a gap in CYMS line, before finding it to score under the sticks.
CYMS worked hard to try and repel the Saints - they held up Colley and Aden Stait over the line - but when poor marker defence allowed O'Neill to dive over from dummy half for his second and Colley converted, the score ticked over the 28-4.
The visitors did have a chance to hit back when the Saints allowed the kick-off to go dead in-goal, but the blue and whites responded by hitting hard in defence. It forced an error from CYMS.
CYMS came again at the Saints early in the final quarter, the smart short-kicking game of halfback Pat Williams forcing consecutive line drop-outs.
Prop Kaden Dickson threw everything at the Saints defence as he steamed onto a pass and made good post-contact meters despite a three-man attempted tackle to inch closer to the line. But the ball then spilled from his arms.
The Saints quickly countered and added a seventh try via Zach Foskett.
Still, CYMS did not give up and they were rewarded with a try 55 seconds from time. Another Williams kick in behind the line was not cleaned up by the Saints and winger Ollie Keegan was able to ground it. That made it 32-8.
While the scoreboard did not reflect it, CYMS certainly had their share of attacking chances with a number of sets on the Saints line in each quarter.
They forced three line drop-outs over the course of the match and at one stage Hoskings was held up over the line. Dickson made good yards up the middle of the ruck while second rower Cody Kelso made some strong charges when drifting wide on the fringes.
But handling errors - a number of which were forced by the strong Saints defence - meant CYMS were unable to capitalise.
"From the start we made it hard for ourselves, just turning the ball over in a good position and from there it went down hill I guess," coach Cam Jones said.
"They're a really good team and we probably needed a couple of those things to go our way, needed a little bit of luck tonight. But we didn't get off to a good start and they're a good team, trying to chase points back is quite difficult."
Though the execution may have been missing, the endeavour certainly wasn't. While the Orange side was playing its fourth game in 10 days, Jones was proud of the way CYMS' kept pushing until the final whistle.
"You can work on the ball handling, you can work on the kicking game and everything else, but they showed guts tonight and that makes me happy," he said
"We've played four on the trot now and we've been looking forward to the bye, we were two from two and now we're two from four unfortunately."
While CYMS sit out this weekend with the bye, Pat's will face an away match against Lithgow Workies at 11.30am Saturday.