ORANGE City Lions second grade side have capped an undefeated season by downing Bathurst Bulldogs 27-15 in Saturday’s grand final.
The win was set up by some enterprising play in the first half, which saw the minor premiers skip out to a 17-5 lead.
When Lions’ giant inside centre Tatafu Na’animotu powered through several Bulldogs defenders to score four minutes after the break, the silverware was as good as safe.
City’s captain-coach Brad Cleal was a pleased man after seeing his side defend their 2012 title.
“We were able to kick away from them in the first half and we held on to win it,” the fly-half said.
“It wasn’t always pretty, but when we decided we wanted to score points we scored points.”
The Lions started the better, utilising a pair of early penalties to build pressure, which paid dividends when Cleal and winger Baden Curran combined to send fullback Jackson Coote in for the game’s first try.
Bulldogs struck back with a long-range effort of their own, but with Jordy Ward unable to convert fullback Tyler Cook’s effort, the score remained locked at 5-all.
From there, City scored the next 19 points to set up and then seal the victory.
First Josh Maley crashed over, capitalising on field position gained from Cleal’s intercept and kick, before flanker John Brennan extended the lead with a try of his own moments before the interval.
Na’animotu’s effort after the resumption confirmed the result, with Lions’ Barton Young adding a penalty to his pair of conversions to counter late Bulldogs tries to winger Tim Collins and replacement Dane Fitzpatrick.
Cleal paid credit to several key players in his fold.
“Josh Maley was absolutely fantastic. He really led from the front for us,” he said of the second-rowers’ outstanding performance.
“And our back three of Baden (Curran), Barton (Young) and Jack (Coote) got us out of trouble and kept us on top.”
Bathurst Bulldogs’ co-coach Mitch Lavelle, though disappointed to lose, remained upbeat about his side’s performance.
“It’s a disappointing outcome, but I’m still very proud of all the boys,” Lavelle said.
“It’s been a great year.
“Orange City have been undefeated for a reason. We knew it was a challenge to come here and win and we just couldn’t do it today.”
The mentor believes there are positive signs for the Bulldogs looking ahead to the 2014 season.
“We’ve had a good mixture of youth and experience throughout the year and today our young guys really stood up,” he said.
“Ollie Crow and Jaymen Carter were two young players who really played well today under the conditions of a grand final.”
“There’s positive signs.”
ORANGE CITY LIONS 27 (Jackson Coote, Josh Maley, John Brennan, Tatafu Na’animotu tries, Barton Young pen, Young 2 convs def BATHURST BULLDOGS 15 (Tyler Cook, Tim Collins, Dane Fitzpatrick tries)