ORANGE City's finals experience came to the fore on Saturday as a last-minute try allowed them to topple Orange Emus 35-29 in their Blowes Clothing Cup qualifying semi-final.
Outside centre Jake Davis scored in the final minute of the match at Endeavour Oval to allow the Lions to snatch a victory and propel them into the major semi-final against the Dubbo Kangaroos.
The Lions, who finished the regular season in third, are no strangers to finals football having won the last two Blowes Clothing Cup crowns.
On the flipside, Emus took home the wooden spoon in 2013.
Saturday's game see-sawed with the lead changing hands seven times in the opening half and the Lions taking an 18-17 lead into the break.
The match continued to go back and forth in the second stanza, the lead swapping a further six times with City taking a six-point victory.
"We've been talking about how we needed to have a good start. We've had some poor starts the last three or four weeks," Lions co-coach Mick Gray explained.
"We did, we got off to a start. We went over the line first which puts scoreboard pressure on them and they have to play football, and we've had to do that the last three or four weeks and we know how hard it is to do.
"But we weren't perfect. There were still far too many penalties for what we want. Ultimately we proved that we can finish games and we finished another one today."
Orange Emus coach Andrew Logan couldn't hide his disappointment.
"We went out there lacking energy and lacking intensity and I think we paid for that in the first half," Logan said.
"Nigel Staniforth brought us back into it. I thought he played a magnificent captain's knock, but we were always struggling after such a poor first half."
The Lions had the start they wanted when winger Manu Halasima scored, but they were soon down 7-5 when Staniforth intercepted a City pass and ran 80 metres to score, and then converted.
Two penalty goals to City's Mesui Lemoto and one to Staniforth had the Lions up 11-10, before Emus winger Carter Hirini scored and Staniforth nailed the conversion from the right line for the hosts to go up 17-11.
However, the Lions had an 18-17 lead at half-time after flanker Duncan Young was put through a gap to score and Lemoto converted.
Emus struck the first blow in the second half when Staniforth kicked a penalty goal, but City were back in front minutes later when Halasima scored his second and Lemoto added the extras for a 25-20 scoreline.
The battle of the boot continued with Lemoto kicking one more penalty goal and Staniforth three for the Emus to lead 29-28.
In the game's dying stages, City was on the Emus line and, from the back of a ruck, spread the ball right.
Davis stepped one defender and was able to beat the others before diving over under the posts. Lemoto made sure of the conversion as the Lions players and supporters celebrated.
Logan said even though they're rivals, Emus could take a lead out of Orange City's book.
"We've learnt a good lesson about what it takes to win finals rugby games," he said.
"We said before the game that City play the full 80 and they did and they won on the bell and we need to learn to do that. We need to emulate them.
"As much as we're cross-town rivals and as much as we want to beat them and we're hurting and very frustrated after today, you've got to take a lesson from these guys, they do that very well and we've got to learn to do that."
City's first grade side was the only one from the club not to take out a minor premiership this season.
Gray said that was a motivator for his players on Saturday.
"The other thing is we wanted to reunite the whole club," Gray explained.
"We had three teams make minor premiers and they're playing in Dubbo next week, and we wanted to be there to have all four teams play on the one day. Then hopefully things go our way and we've got a home grand final with four teams playing in it. That's what we're aiming for."
ORANGE CITY 35 (Manu Halasima 2, Duncan Young, Jake Davis tries; Mesui Lemoto 3 conv, 3 pen goals) def ORANGE EMUS 29 (Nigel Staniforth, Carter Hirini tries; Nigel Staniforth 2 conv, 5 pen goals).