Glen Buttriss could not have asked for a much better start at the helm of Cootamundra.
A new-look Bulldogs outfit started the Group Nine season with a bang, beating grand finalists Gundagai at Anzac Park on Sunday.
Stepping up from the Weissel Cup, James Howse scored two quick tries at the start of the second half to help his side to a 24-18 victory.
Buttriss was proud of the team’s effort.
“It was awesome,” Buttriss said. “We knew Gundagai were going to be a massive challenge for us.
“They have been a strong team for a lot of years now.
“We knew it was going to come down to the 80th minute.
“It was a really tough game and I’m just really proud of the boys and the way they worked for each other throughout the whole game.”
Howse was a late inclusion after under 18s teammate Wayne Parker withdrew following the Laurie Daley Cup final on Saturday.
Buttriss was impressed by both.
Parker made the call on Saturday that he wouldn’t be at his best in what would have been his first grade debut while Howse looked right at home in the top grade.
"The kid (Howse) came on and played the house down,” Buttriss said.
“He was outstanding for us and close to man of the match.”
Cootamundra opened the scoring in the fourth minute through new recruit Aaron Duncan before Gundagai captain-coach James Smart levelled things up.
James Smith put the Bulldogs ahead again before James Curgenven scored right on half-time to see the teams locked at 10-all.
Then Howse opened up the game.
He scored two tries in three minutes to have the Bulldogs out by 10 points with 33 minutes to play.
The Tigers kept fighting and got within a try when Curgenven scored his second.
However a try to Chris Maher with 12 minutes left added to Cootamundra’s buffer and despite Gundagai scoring right at the end, it wasn’t enough.
Buttriss was thrilled with the defensive efforts of the team after thwarting many attacking raids.
“It was tough going for the boys and our defence in the first half was outstanding,” he said.
“That is what kept us in the game.
“They threw a bit at us and had a few attacking options there with six or seven sets, but the boys just kept working hard which was unreal.”
However the win could have come at a big cost.
Centre Rob Tulenew (shoulder) and lock Dave Buttriss (hand) both need scans on what shape as long term injuries while Haydn Cowled played through a sternum complaint.
However they will get big forward Jake Goodwin back from suspension to tackle Albury at Les Boyd Oval on Sunday.