A TWO-TRY performance from captain-coach Tim Mortimer led Orange Hawks to a 28-26 come-from-behind victory over the Cowra Magpies at Wade Park on Sunday.
Mortimer led by example as Hawks reeled in a 10-point half time deficit to claim the victory, which catapults the two blues into third place with just three games remaining in the Group 10 premier league regular season.
The hosts had the better of both possession and field position in the opening exchanges, but found themselves 12-nil down just 15 minutes into the game after Cowra scored two tries against the run of the play.
A sixth-minute Keegan Harding grubber cannoned into Cowra five-eighth Phill Ingram, who latched on to the rebound before offloading to centre Warren Williams, who went 90 metres to score.
Nine minutes later Cowra halfback Tim Holman charged down a Brock McGarity kick and won the race to the ball to score a fortuitous four pointer, with winger Caley Mok nailing both sideline conversions.
Hawks lost fullback Joe Lasagavibau and second-rower Kyle Byrnes minutes later when both were sent to the sin-bin after a minor scuffle.
No Magpies players were sent to the bin but, incredibly, the visitors failed to capitalise on the two-man advantage as Hawks won the ten minute period 12-6 on the back of Mortimer and Harding four pointers.
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Magpies fullback Ricky Whitton also scored to keep his side in front, before second-rower KJ Wood crossed in the shadows of half time, extending Cowra's lead to 22-12 at the break.
Amid a comedy of errors from the visitors during the opening 20 minutes of the second period Mortimer grabbed his second, with McGarity's conversion reducing the deficit to just four points.
With Cowra continuing to cough up possession a Hawks resurgence seemed inevitable until Magpies winger Jay McClintlock plucked a deft Holman chip out of the air to score.
Crucially, Mok's sideline conversion attempt sailed wide.
The hosts struck back immediately after Cowra knocked on just two tackles after the restart. Centre Jared Brodrick's solo effort was enough to inspire his side to a comeback, and he sent Mataele over four minutes later to give Hawks a two point lead, which they held on to until full time.
"We're really enjoying the wins ... it's always more enjoyable when you're winning," Mortimer said.
"A few things didn't go that way, but we always knew we were in with a shot. Sometimes in footy momentum goes against you but those teams that hold on and don't muck around too much can get in back. We did that.
"Cowra was the only team that we hadn't beaten, and it was a goal for us, so knowing that we've knocked off every team is a good confidence boost for us.
"I'm very, very happy. Eight in a row, and we're definitely going for nine next week."
"We definitetly didn't come here to lose," Magpies coach Steve Sutton said.
"I think we lost more than Hawks beat us. We had a fair few cracks in that second half but we were flat out getting to our kick, good sides will make you pay when you turn the ball over that much and Hawks were good enough to do so."
ORANGE HAWKS 28 (Tim Mortimer 2, Keegan Harding, Jared Brodrick, Alofi Mataele tries; Brock McGarity 4 goals) def COWRA MAGPIES 26 (Warren Williams, Tim Holman, Ricky Whitton, KJ Wood, Jay McClintlock tries; Caley Mok 3 goals).