AN inspired finish by Orange Hawks halfback Tony Pellow to yesterday’s Group 10 under 18s preliminary final has allowed his side to progress to next Sunday’s grand final.
The 30-14 victory over minor premiers Bathurst Panthers sets up a decider date with Cowra Magpies at Wade Park in seven days’ time.
The diminutive playmaker sealed the win with a pair of truly miraculous plays in the dying stages of yesterday’s clash.
Firstly, with 15 minutes to play and with his side clinging to a 20-14 lead, Pellow’s full-stretch dive and ankle tap in the right-hand corner stopped a certain try for the men in black.
Moments later, he hammered home the fatal nail into Panthers’ coffin, this time with the ball in hand.
Camped on Panthers’ try line on the last tackle, Pellow twice ran the width of the field, dummying and shimmying to buy time, before pinpointing a perfect grubber into the in-goal area for Liam Brodrick to score.
From there, the result was never in doubt.
Pellow’s coach Jared Brodrick, while full of praise for the entire squad, reserved special mention for his pivot.
“He got us out of jail last week, too,” the coach said, referring to Pellow’s intercept and 90-metre sprint to eliminate rivals Orange CYMS last weekend.
“But today we were solid right across the park. We really dug deep when we needed to.”
Panthers mentor Scott Traynor lamented a lost opportunity for his side.
“We talked through the week and before the game about their halfback, about how the play isn’t dead until he’s tackled, but it cost us today,” Traynor said.
“But to be honest, Hawks simply wanted it more than us today. They ran harder, they tackled harder. All credit to them.”
Hawks coach Brodrick is anticipating a similarly tight contest against Cowra on Sunday.
“We’ve really improved in the semis and the boys are on a bit of a roll now, so we’ll be confident,” he said.
Honours were shared between the two sides in the home-and-away season, before the Magpies downed the Orange side 14-0 in the qualifying semi-final a fortnight ago.
But Brodrick is quietly optimistic of turning the tables when it matters most.
“There’s plenty of heart in the team. They just won’t lie down.”
ORANGE HAWKS 30 (Jayden Gibbs-O’Neil 2, Liam Brodrick 2, Mick Cooper, Jack Ryan tries; Keegan Harding 3 goals) def BATHURST PANTHERS 14 (Callum Young, Jye Howey, Emerson Meehan tries; Ben Dolan goal).