ORANGE CYMS’ hopes of making the 2014 Group 10 premier league semi-finals will go on the line next Sunday against new competition leaders Bathurst St Pat’s.
The green and golds put together a scrappy 24-20 win over former leaders Mudgee at Wade Park on Sunday, and in doing so ensured St Pat’s 30-26 victory over Orange Hawks was enough to shoot the Saints into the minor premiership hot seat following the completion of the penultimate round.
The green and golds’ spot in the top five now hinges on CYMS beating St Pat’s.
If that doesn’t happen, and the fast finishing Bathurst Panthers knock over Hawks on Saturday, the final place in this year’s finals series will belong to the men in black.
Admitting his side must improve on its four-point victory over a Mudgee outfit decimated by injury, Sullivan believes his team won’t deserve to make the finals if it can’t beat Pat’s in Bathurst next Sunday.
“It makes it quite tight,” Sullivan said looking at the round 17 results.
“We’ve got to keep winning now, I thought that’d be the way.
“To make the finals you’ve got to beat the best and we’ve got a couple of them to finish. We’ve still got a lot of work to do on individual errors, I think we turned it over way too much again. I’ll take the win.
“We don’t deserve to get into the semis unless we beat Pat’s next week, and that looks like what we have to do.”
VIDEO: WHAT MICK SULLIVAN AND JACK AFAMASAGA HAD TO SAY:
And, for at least the opening 10 minutes, it looked like CYMS would head into next week’s final round blockbuster in Bathurst with a strong foundation after its clash with an injury-riddled Mudgee.
Putting an error off the opening kick-off aside, CYMS started the match well, and when Tim Bassmann crossed twice in the space of two minutes the hosts led 12-0.
But, as they’ve done all year, CYMS switched off.
And Mudgee made them pay.
The Dragons scored two great tries - the first a sneaky intercept to Camden Sutton and the second a well worked play finished by skipper Jared Robinson - to edge within four points of CYMS at 12-8.
On the verge of half-time, Mick Sullivan darted over after feeding a scrum to gift the green and golds an 18-8 lead at the break.
It was a relatively soft try at a crucial moment in the game.
And one that proved decisive.
His side’s best, Chris Ward made the CYMS defence look wafer thin in scoring a second half double and, while Alex McMillon’s 80th minute four pointer ensured the Dragons finished the match with five tries to green and golds’ four, the wayward boot of Tom Lewsley and Josh Crowe proved costly.
A brilliant effort in just his second run-on appearance, Ryan Griffin was CYMS’ sole try-scorer in the second half, while a successful McAlpine penalty conversion edged his side’s advantage to eight with five minutes to go.
The final 24-20 result was a gutsy performance from a Mudgee team minus Jack Afamasaga, Corin Smith, Todd Munn, Hamish Bryant and Ben Thompson.
“Very impressed with the boys, pretty much a fourth-string kind of a side, we’ve got that many troops out and more today,” Afamasaga said.
“I thought they carried themselves very well on the field. All of the boys that played today did really well.”
After winning 10 in a row at the start of the season, Mudgee has now won one of their last six running into the semi-finals.
A final round bye means the Dragons will finish second, and Afamasaga was confident his troops will bounce back in the post-season.
“The boys always knew injuries are a part of the game but it’s just couldn’t have happened at a worse time for us,” he said.
ORANGE CYMS 24 (Tim Bassmann 2, Mick Sullivan, Ryan Griffin tries; Ben McAlpine four goals) def MUDGEE DRAGONS 20 (Chris Ward 2, Alex McMillan, Camden Sutton, Jared Robinson tries).