AFTER a sluggish start Orange Hawks secured its ninth consecutive Group 10 premier league victory over Lithgow Workies at Wade Park on Sunday.
Fresh off a win over Orange CYMS, Workies shot to a 22-6 lead after just 25 minutes before Hawks’ fitness prevailed, reining in the deficit to eventually win 36-28.
The win gives Hawks a realistic chance of securing the minor premiership after Bathurst St Pat’s beat Mudgee yesterday to move into a share of the competition lead with the Dragons, with Hawks just one point behind in third.
Workies’ skipper Chris Rhodes opened the scoring, crashing over in the seventh minute, with halfback Josh Howarth duly adding the extras.
Hawks hit back immediately when front rower Jason Greenhalgh pounced on a loose ball to score a crowd-pleasing four pointer.
Brock McGarity locked the scores up at 6-all with an easy conversion.
The next 20 minutes were all Lithgow as Howarth, Brent Brogan and Ben Stewart all ran in four pointers for the visitors, with Howarth’s two conversions extending the lead to 22-6.
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Hawks’ fitness began to play a telling role as Lithgow slowed in the final five minutes of the opening half, and the two blues took full advantage.
Hawks’ halfback Keegan Harding read a Howarth cut out ball like a book in the 36th minute, running 40 metres untouched to score a fortuitous intercept try.
Winger Justin Howarth crossed in the next set, leaving Hawks just six points down at the break, trailing 22-16.
The hosts suffered a blow immediately after half-time when utility Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill re-injured his shoulder in his top grade comeback.
The setback did little to stop Hawks’ momentum as Jared Brodrick, Joe Lasagavibau and captain-coach Tim Mortimer all ran in tries in the next 20 minutes to give the two blues a 32-22 lead.
However Hawks lost another vital cog when hooker Mitch Hurford left the field grasping at his shoulder.
The hosts conceded shortly after when Steve Lang went over for Lithgow and Howarth nailed the sideline conversion, taking the score to 32-28 with just five minutes left.
Hawks held out a spirited final Workies’ attacking raid though, before McGarity scored the hosts’ second intercept try of the day on full-time.
“It’s a good result I suppose, but I wasn’t entirely happy with the performance,” Mortimer said.
“I don’t think our defence was up to scratch today, they scored a few soft tries up the middle so we need to tighten that up.
“(Coming from behind) is a positive I guess, it means the fitness is there, but we probably aren’t starting the way we want to.”
“That’s been the story of our season I think, we’ve kicked on a few times and not finished off,” Workies coach Graeme Osborne said.
“We’re still playing pretty good footy ... Hawks did well to come back from 22-6 down, so credit to them.”
ORANGE HAWKS 36 (Jason Greenhalgh, Keegan Harding, Justin Howarth, Jared Brodrick, Joe Lasagavibau, Tim Mortimer, Brock McGarity tries; McGarity 4 goals) def LITHGOW WORKIES 28 (Chris Rhodes, Josh Howarth, Brent Brogan, Ben Stewart, Steve Lang tries; Howarth 4 goals).