LITTLE separated Bathurst Bushrangers and Orange Tigers in their AFL Central West senior men's opening round game on Saturday but it was the Bushies' stronger start that ultimately proved the difference at Waratahs.
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The visiting Bushrangers prevailed 9-14-68 to 6-6-42 in a slow, physical game at the Orange ground, with Matt Archer and Nathan Smith each kicking three goals for the Bathurst squad.
Bushrangers flew out to a 3-4-22 to 1-0-6 advantage at quarter-time and that margin remaining fairly consistent throughout the rest of the match.
Co-coach Archer said the performance from his side was encouraging for a round one contest.
"It was a really good hit out. Orange came out guns firing, and it was great to get a game of contested footy," he said.
"Obviously the conditions made it a bit of a scrappy contest and I think it was great for our guys to get that bit of physicality early in the season.
"We were pleased with it. We probably didn't make the most of our opportunities but other than that I was pleased with how it went."
If there was anything to critique in the Bushrangers' performance for Archer it was the inconsistency in intensity.
That's something that the skipper can see improving with more match experience this year.
"We were on top in the midfield but a bit patchy at times," he said.
"There were a couple of moments where we dropped the intensity a little bit, which let them get back on top, but once we got it forward we did a great job at pressuring them to let our midfielders set up behind them. In those conditions that was really important.
"We probably need to focus on getting consistency in our effort and intensity over four quarters. It dropped off a couple of times and that's when they got back into the game."
Archer said it was good to get a look at the new blood in the Tigers squad and believes the Orange men can be a constant threat in 2022.
"We didn't really know what to expect but they were definitely up for the fight," he said.
"They've got a couple of new pickups and they were quite strong and competitive. Orange have always been a good contested football team and that was no different on the weekend.
"I think in the dry conditions they've got a lot of potential to threaten all teams this year."
Between the Orange match and the two-point affair on Saturday between Bathurst Giants and Dubbo Demons there were a pair of close battles to start the season.
"It's what you want to see - a close competitive competition," Archer said.
"I think Dubbo will be fantastic this year. Giants after last year will obviously be thereabouts again and Orange were definitely up for the fight on the weekend so it looks pretty exciting."
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