THE Orange Tigers downed Central West AFL rivals Bathurst Bushrangers by 29 points to record the club’s ninth consecutive win of the 2014 season at Country Club Oval on Saturday.
The 17.17 (119) to 14.6 (90) victory was perhaps the club’s most important this year. The ladder-leading Tigers are now firming as favourites to claim this year’s minor premiership after bumping themselves two wins clear of the Bushies with five regular season rounds remaining.
After claiming last year’s flag with a grand final upset over Bathurst, Tigers coach Nathan Pearce said anything less than a grand final appearance in 2014 would be classed as a failure.
A minor premiership, however, was the furthest thing from his mind.
“It wasn’t [a goal] to start off with, but it probably is now,” Pearce said, the Tigers careering towards the minor prize.
“At the start of the year our goal was to make the grand final, and along the way you set a few targets; we wanted to win as many games as we can ... and our thoughts now after that win is having that first semi-final here at home, which we wouldn’t have had for while.
“But as soon as you start looking too far ahead you move away from what’s been working really well for us.”
The Tigers led from start to finish in Saturday’s round 13 blockbuster with the Bushrangers.
But the clash wasn’t without its moments.
Leading by 12 at the end of the first period, the Tigers seemingly switched off as the visitors raced back into the contest.
But, reverting back to the whole-encompassing team strategy that’s worked a treat thus far for the defending premiers, the Tigers bumped their advantage back out to 18 by half-time.
From there, they were never headed.
“We probably held our nerve there, which was pleasing,” Pearce recalls of the second quarter Bathurst resurgence.
“There was a five-minute period in the second quarter where they drew level but the boys took charge and played some really good team footy.”
Tim Barry led the way for the Tigers up front, booting five majors, while ruckmen Jarrad Lenegan and Leigh Turner provided midfield guns Josh Bubnich and Michael Rothnie with ample quality possession to run riot through the middle of the Country Club Oval.
But Pearce reserved special mention for fullback Nick Goudie.
“He had a pretty big job on Tim Hunter and I thought he was outstanding,” Pearce said.
“Hunter could quite easily have bagged nine or 10, but Nick Goudie did exceptionally well.”
The Tigers now enjoy a bye round before hosting Dubbo and Cowra in back-to-back home games then travelling to George Park for one final regular season showdown with the Bushrangers.