ALL year Bathurst Bushrangers coach Mark Kennedy had rated Orange as the biggest hurdle his players had to overcome in their bid for back-to-back Central West AFL premierships and on Saturday the Tigers showed why.
In one of the biggest upsets seen in the league since the Bushrangers formed in 2004, the Tigers sprung a massive surprise to win 14.8 (92) to 13.11 (89) at George Park.
It was the first loss for Bathurst this season and just the second time they had tasted defeat in two years.
For the Tigers, it ended a first grade premiership drought that stretched back to 2003.
As Bathurst players - who a fortnight earlier enjoyed an 82 point win over Orange - were left to wonder what had gone wrong, the Tigers celebrated.
They had good reason to as they kept up their intensity throughout the entire match and in the main had Bathurst chasing the lead.
Joel McKenzie got best on ground, but there were plenty who could lay claim to that honour.
Bathurst skipper Matt Archer kicked six majors for the match and teammate Tom Williams shone in the centre.
Tim Barry booted five goals for the Tigers and rover Josh Bubnich worked hard throughout.
While there were impressive efforts right across the paddock as the sides battled for the Elders CWP Cup, there were even more lead changes.
Andrew Nelson and Barry both found the mark early as the Tigers forged a 13-point lead after four-and-a-half minutes.
Then it was Bathurst’s turn to hold momentum for a period as they kicked three-straight majors, Sebastian Matheson’s effort after nine minutes seeing the Bushrangers nose ahead by five points.
The Tigers then had the final say for the quarter and went to the first break with a 4.3 (27) to 3.0 (18) lead.
Already the battle for midfield supremacy was intense, both sides tackling hard and spoiling well.
However, three minutes into the second quarter Bathurst’s noted defensive structure was forced into a change.
Fullback Jack Vogan limped off with an injured calf. He was one of three big name casualties for the Bushrangers before the game ended, Nathan Belbin copping a hard knock while Peter Yandle broke his collar bone.
Bathurst still had the personnel to be confident of winning, but the Tigers were not lacking in that department either.
The Bushrangers nosed ahead after 13 minutes of the quarter, Bubnich responded for Orange, then, after the siren had sounded for half-time, Archer sent in a kick from beyond 50 metres that looked to be missing to the left but came back for a major score.
That made it all square at half-time, both sides having kicked six goals six.
In their six previous meetings in 2013, the Tigers had fallen away in the second half against the Bushrangers, but this time around it was different.
A strong start to the third term saw the Tigers open the biggest gap since the opening quarter as they led 9.6 (60) to 7.6 (48), but the Bushrangers came back at them again.
The competition’s leading goal scorer for 2013 - Paul Jenkins - kicked a pair for the Bushrangers as did Archer.
It had the defending premiers ahead 12.6 (78) to 11.6 (72) with 25 minutes left to play.
It took almost nine minutes for the first goal of the final term to come and it was Jenkins who found it. It gave the Bushrangers what was to be the biggest lead of the match - 14 points. It was not enough.
Barry kicked two goals in quick succession and when Jaydan Phillips scored with nine minutes left the Tigers were up by four.
Bathurst managed just one more behind before the final siren sounded - leaving them devastated and the Tigers elated.
n ORANGE TIGERS 14.8 (92) def BATHURST BUSHRANGERS 13.11 (89).