BATHURST Bushrangers came up trumps in their Central West AFL grand final rematch against Orange Tigers on Saturday.
Playing in Orange, the Bushrangers won what both sides described as a scrappy game 15.12 (102) to 9.9 (63).
Bushrangers captain-coach Matt Archer was thrilled with the win after his side’s disrupted pre-season.
“I’m over the moon. I didn’t expect to get up by 30 or 40 points,” Archer said.
“It was pretty even the whole game. It wasn’t until the last quarter where we sort of ran away with it. I think they ran out of legs a bit.”
Archer was spot on in his assessment.
The Bushrangers were up 4.3 (27) to 2.2 (14) at the first break before a solid second quarter pushed the Tigers to the lead 8.5 (53) to 7.3 (45) at half-time.
It was the third quarter where the Bushrangers won the game, kicking five goals and preventing Orange from booting any majors.
This gave Bathurst a 20-point lead going into the final quarter, where they nailed another three goals and kept the Tigers to the one.
“No one had the ascendancy for more than a minute,” Archer said of the match.
Tigers coach Nathan Pearce said his players struggled in the game’s final period.
“We just ran out of legs in the last quarter. Going into the last quarter we were only down by a couple of goals and I was confident we’d run out the game well. But we had a lot of guys cramping up,” Pearce said.
“We were making wrong decisions at critical times in the game, but that just shows a bit of the inexperience in our side. We had to make seven changes from last week’s team.
“Last week we were looking at three or four options in the forward line. This week we were trying to go to Murray Robotham most of the time.”
Tim Hunter led the charge for Bathurst with five goals, while Paul Long booted four.
For the Tigers, Murray Robotham, Chris Rothnie, Paul Jenkins and Ben Monaghan nailed two majors each.
“Tim Hunter at full-forward was impressive,” Archer said.
“Steve Grundy was in the ruck and he gave it a real dig. I could name 22 guys.”
Pearce described Hunter as a “freak of a full-forward” and added Brent Harris did well to limit the Bushranger to five majors.
“Matt Dippolito was solid and Michael Rothnie had another best on ground game. Ben Lenegan was strong,” Pearce said.
“Simon Ewin is a player who has come up from under 18s and he had a blinder in the mid-field.
“We’ve still got work to do but I’m really confident we’ll play some good football.”
Last year’s grand finalists are both looking forward to meeting again.
“I’m confident we’ll get the four points back against Bathurst this year,” Pearce said.
“Everyone is high on confidence,” Archer said of the win.
“We went into the game not knowing what to expect. We’re confident now we can do well and go one better in the last game.”
BATHURST BUSHRANGERS 15.12 (102) def ORANGE TIGERS 9.9 (63).