IT was a finish that defied the match it defined.
As time wound down on an enthralling Group 10 local derby at Wade Park, Orange Hawks centre Brock McGairty kicked a 45-metre penalty goal from just to the left of the uprights to earn the two blues a 12-11 victory and the hosting rights for this year’s grand final.
The goal sent the packed Wade Park crowd into hysterics as players, both past and present, flooded the playing field to swamp Hawks’ new hero.
It was a completely different story just 10 minutes earlier.
Lining up a relatively simple conversion after Todd Barrow stepped back on the inside to score and draw the scores level at 10-all, McGarity shanked his attempt to the right of the sticks in a pressure moment of the major semi-final.
Then, following a clutch Mick Sullivan field goal on the second tackle right in front of the posts to send CYMS out to an 11-10 lead, it looked as though it would be the green and golds who would hold their nerve.
But to say McGarity redeemed himself in the final stages of the biggest game of the season so far is an understatement.
It’s a finish that’ll go down in Group 10 folklore.
“I let them down with the goal kick before and as soon as the penalty came Mort (Hawks captain-coach Tim Mortimer) said ‘are you right mate?’ I said, ‘mate, I’ll knock her over’,” McGarity said as he was being mobbed yesterday afternoon.
“I’m pumped, real pumped. It went straight through. It’s unreal.”
Despite the earlier miss, Mortimer had full confidence in his goal kicker.
“Brock put his hand up. He said ‘I’ve got this’,” Mortimer said.
“He cleared it by about 20 metres. Good on him. You need people like that in your team. I was first in there, I’ll tell you that right now.
“You don’t get many of those in your lifetime and geez, it feels good.”
It was an incredible crescendo to a game that was at best error-riddled.
CYMS and Hawks were both guilty of poor ball handling, while the two were equally guilty in giving away cheap ball and territory on the back of a 9-all penalty count.
Yet, neither side really made the other pay.
In particular CYMS early, who early on had the better of the possession.
Live-wire hooker Sam Hill found plenty of space through the middle of the ruck while backrower Riley Law was also strong charging on to the ball.
But CYMS couldn’t turn pressure into points.
Not until deep into the first period when Epa Navale was the beneficiary of some nice ball playing by Ben McAlpine, sending his big winger in to score out wide.
McAlpine’s conversion attempt hit the upright and was waved away, taking CYMS’ lead to 4-0 at the 28-minute mark.
But, incredibly given the amount of ball they had in the first half, CYMS didn’t even have the lead at half-time, with Hawks halfback Scott Rosser grubbering into the in-goal for Mortimer to score adjacent to the posts.
McGarity kicked his first for the afternoon and the two blues led 6-4 at the break.
The opening exchanges of the second half were both physical and spectacular, with CYMS and Hawks ramping up their defence.
The game was soon blown open when, out of a Hawks attacking raid, electric CYMS centre Ali Beale plucked an intercept to race 55 metres and score untouched, finishing the play with a massive swan dive under the sticks.
McAlpine added the extras and at 10-6 with 24 minutes remaining, CYMS again took the ascendancy.
And again, they couldn’t make the most of it.
With 17 minutes remaining Hawks winger Alofi Mataele was placed on report for a lifting tackle on Frechman Romaric Bemba inside Hawks’ own 20 metres, gifting CYMS six tackles in good attacking territory.
But, as it had been all game, Hawks scramble in defence was outstanding.
Five minutes later Todd Barrow charged over after receiving a lovely Mortimer long ball to make it 10-all and the rest, as they say, is history.
“The whole way through the game, it could have gone either way,” Mortimer said of the one-point last-ditch triumph.
“They put some good plays on us, found a few holes but couldn’t finish things off. We had good cover defence and that’s what we’ve been missing the last month or so. We had that back and the hype of the local derby brought that back.
“We just never gave up even though they were 11-10.”