TWICE inside the final minute of Saturday’s Blowes Clothing Cup match at Ashwood Park Bathurst Bulldogs had the chance to topple two-times defending champions Orange City.
But twice they had to suffer the frustration of having a penalty goal attempt waved away.
It meant Orange City emerged as 20-18 victors and snapped the Bulldogs’ four-game winning streak.
In the greater context of the premiership neither side improved their position on the ladder – City remaining in third and Bulldogs fourth with one round remaining – but both had positives to draw on for the fast approaching finals.
Had Bulldogs five-eighth Steve Locke been able to land either of those late penalty goals it would have handed his side their first win over Orange City since beating the Lions 14-12 on September 4, 2010 in the preliminary final.
Locke also missed a penalty goal late in the first half, had a field goal attempt charged down by Chris Barrett and was only able to convert one of Bulldogs’ two tries.
On another afternoon he could have seen any or all of those chances raise the flags.
“We played very well and deserved the points, but we didn’t get the points,” Bulldogs co-coach Shane Cantrill said.
“We controlled it pretty well, we got on them. But we missed 13 points in goal kicks and that hurts us in the final score.
“We just need to get that right and we will be right on the day. We didn’t unleash much today, but we know we can do that.”
For Orange City coach Mick Gray, an improved effort from his pack in the second half was a big positive.
They also managed a try in the opening period when they were a man short following Sam Powell being yellow carded for repeated ruck infringements.
“We talked a bit at half-time about our structure, we weren’t doing it as well as we could, we needed our forwards to get there for the next couple of phases. We are not the biggest team in the world, but we are pretty fit and we just used our fitness to get where we wanted to be,” he said.
“If you look back over the last couple of years a lot of people have said we have been lucky and escaped in games, but at the end of the day you have to be close enough to win it and we were.”
In a match which saw an absorbing battle between the two packs, it was the Bulldogs who landed the first blow when loosehead prop Chris Plunkett scored inside the first three minutes. Locke converted to make it 7-0.
“If you look back over the last couple of years a lot of people have said we have been lucky and escaped in games, but at the end of the day you have to be close enough to win it and we were"
That advantage increased to 12 points after some impressive counter-rucking, Lachie Bull sensing an overlap on the left after one of his fellow forwards pilfered.
He spun the ball wide and seconds later Tom Hollis scampered down the left wing to score.
City had their forwards to thank for their opener 13 minutes from the break as flanker Duncan Young scored from a pick and drive, Mesui Lemoto adding the extras to make it 12-7.
When Powell was yellow carded it also gifted Locke a penalty goal attempt from in front of the sticks which he potted, but with 23 seconds left of the half City responded with a Cameron Cole try.
Lemoto had an easy conversion from in front, the late concentration lapse hurting Bulldogs as their lead was cut to 15-14.
In the second half all points came off the boot, Lemoto putting his side in front with a penalty goal before Locke responded to make it 18-17.
Lemoto booted another with 18 minutes left to give his side a two-point lead and that is how it remained, City absorbing plenty of pressure in the final minutes to take the points.
ORANGE CITY LIONS 20 (Duncan Young, Cameron Cole tries; Mesui Lemoto 2 conversions; Mesui Lemoto 2 penalty goals) def BATHURST BULLDOGS 18 (Chris Plunkett, Tom Hollis tries; Steve Locke conversion; Steve Locke 2 penalty goals)