4th minute: Sam Coote’s early try appeared to rattle the visitors, so it was no surprise when their kick off failed to make the required ten metres. The position of the resultant scrum - in the dead centre of the field - seemed ideal for the Lions to launch into attack, presumably by positioning try-scoring sensation Sione Lafo’ou one-on-one against the defence.
So it’s hard to imagine what the Boars defence made of City’s backs standing directly behind the scrum, clumped in a seemingly random bunch. When scrum-half Nick Quinn re-gathered the ball, the six rushed en masse to the right.
Lafo’ou did wind up with the ball and, a few plays later, Michael Sparks had doubled the defending premiers’ advantage.
7th minute: Already leading 14-0, City looked to assert themselves by maintaining possession in their own half, rather than kicking for territory. When a procession of crash balls flowed of the back of the rucks, second-rower Mitch Pearce decided to join the party.
Big mistake. Waiting for him in the defensive line was Parkes front-rower and former Tongan representative Heamani Lavaka, who hit Pearce like a chunky exocet missile.
The Boars, taking the chance to regroup while Pearce lay on the ground relocating his lungs, scored the next eight points to reignite the contest.
41st minute: The Boars appeared after the half-time break with a renewed sense of purpose. Cleanly collecting the Lions’ kick off, Dan and Ben Ryan took turns pounding into City’s defence, grabbing invaluable metres with each run.
With their fellow forwards rallying around them, the Boars were soon parked in the Lions’ 20-metre area. For 12 consecutive phases they bashed and barged, until referee Nathan Pearce found a Lions infringement and awarded them a penalty.
From 20 metres out and a reasonably straight angle, you’d have backed Dan Ryan to reduce his team’s deficit to a manageable 24-14. But his strike hit the right upright and skewed into the in-goal area, where it was recovered by the defence.
Despite their continued territorial advantage, it was his side’s last realistic shot at points for the next 35 minutes.
55th minute: Buried in their own quarter, City had reached into their reserves of strength and fitness to repel Parkes for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Having absorbed the Boars punishment, the hosts looked to land the game’s defining blow.
It came, unsurprisingly, through captain and fly-half Michael Sparks. The crafty pivot dummied and jinked his way into the backfield before drawing the attention of fullback Sam Standen and timing his pass to Sam Coote to perfection.
The outside centre gleefully accepted his second Sparks-inspired try of the afternoon and the grand final, as a contest, was over.
70th minute: With the knowledge his retirement dream was over, Lavaka dragged his injury-riddled body for an early rest. Unfortunately, his decision came at a time when Parkes were on the attack at Pride Park’s northern end, meaning the limping front-rower had a good 80 metres to hobble to his waiting bench.
The gracious reception of the home crowd eased his pain.
First, Orange City’s coaching staff, led by Steve Hamson, stood and waited to shake their rivals’ hand. Steve Stone, Orange City’s president, joined the growing queue.
Those in the crowd with knowledge of Lavaka’s achievements in the game were soon leading a boisterous round of applause for the Tongan. As with anyone who interacts with the gentle giant, they were rewarded with a smile.