IF they weren’t already, Orange City is on the cusp of becoming one of the great Blowes Clothing Cup sides after successfully claiming back-to-back undefeated minor premierships.
Chalking up win number 16 for the 2013 season with a 32-18 victory over a spirited Orange Emus in Saturday’s final regular season round at Endeavour Oval, the Lions will now enjoy the first week of the semi-finals off.
They’ll play the winner of Parkes and Cowra in the following week’s major semi-final at Pride Park, with a potential victory setting up a massive grand final day for the club.
On top of bringing home another piece of first grade silverware, Orange City wrapped up the second grade minor premiership undefeated whilst also claiming the colts minor title, dropping just the one match along the way.
The Lions, celebrating another Barry Edwards Cup win, huddled down the northern end of Endeavour Oval on Saturday following the 14-point first grade win to soak up the moment.
Assistant coach Andy Hillan said the circle of Lions was as much about enjoying the club’s recent success as it was refocusing on the bigger picture.
Both Parkes and Cowra will be gunning for the Lions over the course of the next month, but given the way City dug deep in a physical encounter against Emus, the undisputed kings of the Blowes Clothing Cup will be ready.
“It was a great hit-out for the semis,” Hillan said.
“It was a gutsy effort, we were made to do lots of defence and they gave it to us.
“A good hit-out like that before the week off is always good.”
Derbies are always played at a different intensity level and, despite Orange City occupying top billing on the 2013 ladder and Orange Emus last, Saturday’s clash was no different.
Early on it was Emus who looked strong.
Winger Adam Perri hit home the match’s first penalty goal in just the first minute to give the hosts a 3-nil lead.
Whether it was the adrenalin or a bit of pride on the line at home, Emus were out-enthusing City in just about every area of the game in the opening 10 minutes but, as all good sides do, the Lions lifted and soon the momentum swung their way.
At the 11-minute mark, Mesui Lemoto cooly slotted his first penalty attempt for the afternoon to draw the scores level.
Eight minutes later Lemoto again made Emus pay for an infringement at the breakdown to kick the visitors out to a 6-3 lead.
Lemoto and Perri trade penalty goals to take the score out to 9-6 before the classy Tongan inside centre threw a deft inside ball for Sam Coote to burst through and score next to the left-hand upright.
Lemoto converted and City took the 16-6 lead into the half-time break.
It’s not a derby without some fire, and the second half provided plenty.
A bit of niggle and some bruising tackles made the life of referee Brett Mawbey increasingly difficult, and when Emus lock Paul Ringland was penalised for a high tackle he was also handed a yellow card.
Lemoto kicked the penalty to boot City to a 19-6 lead.
Just as Ringland reappeared Mawbey was forced to hand both Lemoto and Mitch Pearce yellow cards, the first for a dangerous tackle and the second for dissent.
Down to 13 men, Orange City was made to pay when Emu Simon Badgery charged over to score.
Graydon Staniforth added the extras and, at 19-13, the hosts had a sniff.
But a sniff was all they got as the Lions lifted and, in two crucial moments, earned the spoils.
Emus spilt a bomb on the halfway line, gifting possession to City winger Sam Powell, who then neatly put Duncan Young over to score.
Then, with three-and-a-half minutes remaining, young fullback Sam Dwyer plucked an intercept and raced 50 metres to score, taking the margin out to 19 points.
Emus skipper Ben Parkes nabbed a late consolation try to finish the scoring.
Parkes was his side’s best, while Gus Brotherton, Nick Quinn, and Lemoto shone for the minor premiers.
ORANGE CITY LIONS 32 def ORANGE EMUS 18