A LATE Orange City Lions try dashed CSU Bathurst’s hopes of a Blowes Clothing Cup upset on Saturday as the two-times defending champions came away from University Oval 24-19 winners.
The sending off of City inside centre Tatafu Na’animotu with 10 minutes to go for stomping gave the students hope of scoring a surprise win, as they trailed by just five points at the time.
It was James Tooth who got CSU those five points to make it 17-all when he broke away down the left wing and ran around to score under the sticks.
When Tennyson Vance converted it put CSU in front for the first time and headed for an upset win.
But it wasn’t to be.
Gus Brotherton crashed over with two minutes left on the clock off a penalty right on CSU’s tryline to break the home crowd’s hearts and get the Lions out of trouble.
CSU captain Hugh Medway couldn’t hide his disappointment as his side suffered their second narrow defeat in as many weeks, having gone down 19-17 against Dubbo Kangaroos seven days earlier. However, he still saw plenty of positives.
“It’s tough when you’ve been putting your heart and soul into every game we’ve played the last couple of weeks. It’s a bit heart-breaking when you lose to quality teams not by much,” he said.
“I thought our defence throughout the whole game was great. We had Blake Ridges stepping up from second grade to shut down their inside centre well when he’s probably got 30 kilos on Blake. I thought he did an outstanding job.
“This week and last week have been our best matches so far. Orange City and Dubbo ’Roos, they’re top of the table and to come within four and two points – it’s a good testament to let other clubs know we’re not the bottom of the table dwellers that they may think we are.”
CSU struck the first blow on Saturday through Sam Robertson, the lock breezing through some loose City line defence to score next to the posts three minutes in.
City got themselves back within two when Duncan Young scored off a charge down when CSU were attempting to kicking out of their in-goal area.
The visitors backed that up minutes later when creating an overlap for Tom Fisher to score on the right wing, giving them the lead.
From there CSU were forced to suffer through a long period of City possession, but their stern defence nullified several try scoring opportunities.
Brotherton finally capitalised on the Lions’ good field position three minutes from the break when he barged over. It gave them a 17-7 half-time lead.
While behind on the scoreboard, it was the students who looked the more dangerous outfit when play resumed.
Eventually Medway went over 12 minutes in after several earlier missed opportunities and the students were back in the contest.
When Na’animotu stomped on Medway in the ruck and then threw a punch at Tom Greenaway, the referee showed him a red card. That gave the students a one-man advantage for the run home.
Though they took their chance through Tooth’s try, Brotherton’s response meant it was the second week in a row that CSU let the chance to beat a competition leading side slip by them.
City co-coach Michael Gray admitted his opponents came out with a different plan to what he had expected.
“It was a close win and in the end CSU went very well,” he said.
“They played a bit of a different style than normal. They were a bit enthusiastic at the breakdown and committed very well there. That put a lot of pressure on our blokes to get the ball back.”
Gray praised his team’s ability to come from behind to win just minutes from full-time.
“We have a never-say-die attitude to winning. When we were behind the blokes didn’t panic and knew that if we got up the other end we’d probably be right and that’s what happened,” he said.
“We’re still building. We still haven’t played our best footy for the full game yet, we’ve only played good in patches.
“We’ve got six from seven now. You’d have to be a hard marker to not be happy with that.”
ORANGE CITY LIONS 24 (Gus Brotherton 2, Duncan Young, Tom Fisher tries; Mesui Lemoto 2 conversions) def CSU BATHURST 19 (Sam Robertson, Hugh Medway, James Tooth tries; Tennyson Vance 2 conversions)