THE Gloucester Cockies suffered a heart-breaking 38-31 home defeat to the Manning River Ratz on Saturday.
After getting their season back on track with consecutive victories, the Cockies went into the match full of confidence against the second-placed Ratz.
Gloucester dominated possession and field position early.
Josh Smith was the beneficiary of some rumbling forward play which led to the Cockies’ first try inside the opening 15 minutes.
Manning hit back soon after a yellow card to inside centre Ray Pittman reduced the Cockies to 14 players.
Down a player, the Cockies responded from the kick-off and breakaway Jamie Andrews strolled over untouched to give the home team a 14-7 lead.
Again the Ratz lifted and it looked as if the teams would go to the break locked together at 14-all until Michael Wooster booted home a penalty goal to give the Cockies a three-point advantage at halftime.
The Cockies had the early running in the second half with centre Scott Batey dancing his way across the line from close range before a runaway try to flying winger Ethan Hamilton made it 31-14.
But Manning hit back and injuries to key Cockies players Pittman and Don Hamilton shifted the dynamic of the match.
The Ratz scored three quick tries to make it a two-point ball game 33-31 with minutes remaining on the clock.
The Cockies pressured the line in the final stages but an intercept pass allowed the Ratz to run 80m to put the result beyond doubt.
The Cockies remain in fourth place on the Lower Mid North Coast Rugby ladder heading into this Saturday’s match against competition leaders the Forster Dolphins at Tuncurry.