ORANGE City Lions have put themselves in the box seat to secure a second straight Blowes Clothing Cup premiership with an easy win over Parkes Boars on Saturday.
In terms of this year's finals, the comprehensive 45-12 major semi-final demolition of the competition's second best team means two things.
Firstly, the Central West grand finals will once again be played at Pride Park, this time on September 14.
And secondly, armed with the home-ground advantage, it will take something miraculous, or disastrous from the Lions' perspective, to stop their charge to more silverware.
Parkes now await Cowra, with the victor of next week's final at North Parkes Oval earning a ticket to the decider.
Whether they'll want it is another matter altogether, with City's six-try romp on Saturday showing the defending premiers are hitting their straps when it matters most.
Barely 60 seconds had passed when the Lions opened their account, skipper Michael Sparks spiralling a cut-out pass to put Sione "Junior" Lafo'ou into space.
The winger took full toll, planting a menacing fend on his opposite number Riley Byrne before laying on a trademark step to beat fullback Sam Standen and ease across the stripe.
Mesui Lemoto added the extras, as well as a penalty minutes later, to build an early double-digit advantage.
With their backs to the wall, Boars captain Dan Ryan missed a golden opportunity to reduce the margin when he duck-hooked a penalty goal attempt from in front of the sticks.
The cost of the miss was compounded in the shadows of half-time when Sparks, going to the defensive line with three potential ball runners to choose from, astutely picked out Sam Coote, the outside centre untouched in crossing for the first of his brace.
Lemoto's conversion made it 17-0 when referee John Colgan brought an end to the first 40 minutes.
Parkes coach Heamani Lavaka used the break to demand a lift in intensity, but when a rare try to Lions front-rower Harry Collins extended the lead four minutes after the resumption, a cricket score looked on the cards.
But the Boars dug deep, notching tries of their own to Mat Hunter and Joe Nash in the next 10 minutes to narrow the gap to 24-12 and lend weight to the notion of a boilover.
However the hosts' class prevailed, with Sparks laying on Coote's second to lock in the win, before scrum-half Nick Quinn and replacement Ben Wright ensured the final margin of victory reflected their side's overall superiority.
For the minor premiers Collins was a standout, his workrate in defence and around the rucks more befitting a loose forward than a front-rower, while Gus Brotherton, Sparks and Coote were also prominent.
For the visitors, outside centre Mahe Fangupo was a constant threat with ball in hand, while scrum-half Johnny Rathbone posed more questions than should have been the case behind a thoroughly beaten pack.
Lions co-coach Andy Hillan was confident of his side’s prospects in two weeks’ time.
“Whoever we play [in the grand final] will be dreading having to come here,” he said.
“It’s a great effort to win the right to host the grand final again. It’s a credit to the boys.”
Hillan was reluctant to hazard a guess as to who the Lions’ opponents will be on September 14, but suggested Parkes may struggle to salvage a return to Pride Park.
“This game might be hard to come back from for them,” he said.
“It’s a 30-point loss and it’s hard to get off the canvas from those.
“Having said that, beating Parkes in Parkes will be tough for whoever they play next week.”
Lavaka was optimistic that his season wouldn’t end next Saturday.
“We had six regular first grade players out today, but I think we’ll get at least three of those back for next week, so we’ll be confident,” he said.
The front-row spearhead, visibly struggling with a leg injury, also suggested the grand final was far from a foregone conclusion should his side win a berth.
“They [Orange City] are beatable. We can beat them if we have our full team,” he said.
“We will try our best next week and, hopefully, come back here full of confidence for the grand final.”
ORANGE CITY LIONS 45 (Sam Coote 2, Harry Collins, Nick Quinn, Sione ‘Junior’ Lafo’ou, Ben Wright tries; Mesui Lemoto pen, Lemoto 4, Lafo’ou, Duncan Young goals) def PARKES BOARS 12 (Mat Hunter, Joe Nash tries; Dan Ryan conv).