ORANGE City have taken out the Blowes Clothing Cup minor premiership and gone through the regular season undefeated.
But coach Steve Hamson said all that counts for nothing come semi-finals time.
The Lions downed Orange Emus 27-8 in awful conditions at Endeavour Oval on Saturday.
Emus had to win to be any chance of making the semi-finals and looked a great chance in the first half.
Then the Lions clicked into gear.
“They showed why they’re undefeated,” Emus player-coach Paul Ringland said of the Lions.
“We just made too many mistakes and put ourselves under pressure.”
The loss meant Emus miss the semi-finals and Ringland said the players were disappointed.
“Definitely but we have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
“I’m proud of every one of the guys. They went out and had a crack and that’s all we could do. We just weren’t good enough on the day.”
Emus dominated possession and field position in the first 15 minutes and took a 3-nil lead when Toby Wright kicked a penalty goal.
Sione “Junior” Lafo’ou scored his first of two tries for the game after toeing the ball ahead, before his teammate toed the ball again and Lafo’ou dived on the ball to score and give the Lions a 5-3 lead.
However Emus took an 8-5 advantage to the break thanks to a try from second-rower Keith Howarth.
The miserable conditions meant the forwards shouldered a lot of the work and the Lions pack came into their own in the second half.
Chris Barrett scored off the back of a rolling maul and Maesui Lomoto kicked the conversion and, later, a penalty goal for City to lead 15-8.
Lafo’ou scored his second try with 10 minutes to go and a huge push from a scrum gave John Colgan a five-pointer, which Lafo’ou converted for the 27-8 scoreline.
Hamson said going through undefeated was a great achievement but he was just happy the win allowed his side to have momentum going into the finals.
“We’d not spoken about having an unbeaten season,” Hamson said.
“It’s now happened, which is great. It’s more about keeping the momentum going. You want to go into the finals with momentum and I think we’ve shown that today.”
The Lions mentor was particularly pleased with his team’s set piece.
“We pinched a lot of line-out ball. We retained pretty much all our own. There was a couple of scrappy ones but on a day like today that happens,” he said.
“Our scrum was just dominant, mainly in the second half. Our kicking game was outstanding today too.”
Orange City will have this weekend off as they wait to see who they will play in the major semi-final.
Hamson said his players will have no problem getting motivated for their semi-final.
“Now is the time of year everyone plays for,” he said.
“Now everything that’s been done for the last 18 weeks doesn’t matter, as we found out last year. We snuck into the semis last year and made it right through to third. Just because you’re at the top doesn’t guarantee you anything.
“All these guys have been there enough. A lot of them have lost the last two years in the final, so they’ve got that hunger to go one step further. They know they’ve got a week’s rest and then they’ve got to get up and go hell for leather for that one game to give themselves a chance of winning.
“It’s not very hard with that motivation.”
ORANGE CITY 25 (Sione Lafo’ou 2, Chris Barrett, John Colgan tries, Maesui Lomoto conv, pen goal, Lafo’ou conv) def ORANGE EMUS 8 (Keith Howarth try; Toby Wright pen goal).