ORANGE CYMS have held on to win one of the great Group 10 grand finals, edging Orange Hawks 22-14 to claim their first local derby win of 2013 and their third Western Challenge Cup in the past four seasons.
In front of a crowd in excess of 5000 people at a sun-drenched Wade Park, a Ben McAlpine-inspired CYMS shot out to a 16-4 lead at the break, then extended their advantage to 22-4 six minutes after halftime thanks to a converted Sam Hill try.
PICTURES: GRAND FINAL MEGA GALLERY
Minor premiers Hawks fought back with tries to Justin Howarth, his second for the decider, and then, with 21 minutes to go, through Joe Lasagavibau.
Taking the score to 22-14, Hawks enjoyed the momentum for the first time in the grand final and, crucially, CYMS captain-coach Mick Sullivan left the field with a hamstring injury shortly after Lasagavibau’s try.
Without him, CYMS looked rudderless with the ball.
But the game wasn’t won with the ball.
The green and golds managed to hold on through their defence, with a goal line try-saver from Hill on a flying Chris Anau in the 71st minute typifying the green and golds’ desire on their own line.
Etching the club’s name into the history books, CYMS’ win is the club’s third premier league title since their drought-breaker in 2010.
The last club to win three grand finals in four years was Lithgow Shamrocks, with titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985.
“It’s the win, it’s all we’ve worked for since the start of the year and to get it against our cross-town rivals, it’s all the more sweeter,” Sullivan said following the match.
“We got away then they came back, they’re a quality side.
“I’m just so happy. These boys as a group ... we just kept turning up and that’s what grand finals are about.”
The Dave Scott Medallist for his man of the match performance, McAlpine appeared a man possessed in the first half.
In the opening set of six, the reigning Group 10 Player of the Year booted a monstrous 40-20, with CYMS opening the scoring off the ensuring set thanks to a superb try from young centre Cody Robbins.
CYMS continued to pepper Hawks’ line, and if it wasn’t for the bounce of the ball - two Sullivan kicks in four minutes bounced awkwardly away from his chasers - last year’s runners-up could have been in front by much more.
Somehow sticking with CYMS, Hawks scored next thanks to some brilliant lead-up work from Terawhiti Cooper.
The form-prop of the competition, Cooper put Anau through a gap, then got into first receiver for the next play and threw a lovely cut-out ball for winger Howarth to dive over in the corner and lock-up the scores at 4-all.
But McAlpine soon put his mark on the match again.
Kicking a penalty goal to get CYMS back in front at 6-4, McAlpine put Epa Navale over in the corner, kicked the goal from the sideline, then, with somewhat of a question mark on it, scored himself soon after.
Sullivan dropped the ball in the lead-up to the try, but referee Nathan Blanchard re-started the tackle count and McAlpine took full advantage, kicking CYMS out to a 16-4 lead at the half-time break.
Hawks would fight back, but it was all in vein as CYMS clung on to victory.
Sullivan said yesterday’s win in front of a packed Wade Park was one he’d hold dear.
“You enjoy this with everything you’ve got then go again,” he said, with yesterday’s massive crowd raking in over $50,000 in gate takings for Group 10.
“There’s been a lot of setbacks this year; injuries, people writing us off and saying we can’t beat Hawks, but we were confident we could beat them in the one that counts.
“There’s only one game that counts. We did it the hard way but that probably helped us in the final 10 minutes.
“It was a big effort and they’re games you don’t want to come out on the wrong side of, thankfully we didn’t.”
ORANGE CYMS 24 (Cody Robbins, Epa Navale, Ben McAlpine, Sam Hill tries; McAlpine 3 goals) def ORANGE HAWKS 14 (Justin Howarth 2, Joe Lasagavibau tries; Brock McGarity goal)