HAVING already played out one draw, one win and one loss in three meetings against Orange City this season, Orange Emus coach Andrew Logan isn’t expecting many surprises when the two line up for a fourth time in Saturday’s Blowes Clothing Cup preliminary final at Pride Park.
But, on the back of a relieving minor semi-final victory over Bathurst Bulldogs - Emus’ first post-season win since 2008 - and looking to turn around a 35-29 qualifying semi-final loss to Orange City, Logan says the difference this Saturday will be opportunity.
More to the point, which side seizes their opportunity best.
“I think everyone has a sniff now of what is possible,” Logan said, with Emus and City both one win away from a grand final berth in Dubbo.
“The difference between finals rugby and regular round rugby is you might get a dozen chances to score points during matches throughout the regular season, whereas against the top teams you get very few opportunities. The challenge for us is making the most of those opportunities to score points.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot different. We’ve seen each other three times, this will be the fourth, I don’t think either of us will change much.
“It should be a big day, we’re looking forward to it.”
Seizing the moment is, however, a scenario Logan admits is easier said than done.
Looking at the 8-all draw in round nine as well as the final-round 33-21 victory over City at Pride Park during the regular season for inspiration, Logan feels his side is capable of lifting a gear to again chalk up a victory against the two-time defending premiers.
It’s a gear Emus didn’t quite find against Bathurst though.
Despite a significant weight being lifted from Emus’ shoulders after recording the club’s first top grade finals win since defeating Dubbo Rhinos 39-13 at Apex Oval during week one of the finals six years ago, the greens had ample ball against the Bulldogs yet managed to penetrate the visitors’ line just three times during a 28-19 victory.
That was on the back of a 23-5 penalty count and a massive share of possession.
Interestingly, Logan pulled two of his big guns in prop Nas Havealeta and second rower Nick Hughes-Clapp in the second half of the minor semi-final against the Dogs.
Significantly dropping firepower in the absence of the key duo, Emus were tested heavily in the forwards during that time.
Both players, Logan says, were simply rested to better manage his roster.
“We’ve got to be careful with player fatigue,” Logan said, a ploy he hasn’t ruled out engaging against Orange City as well.
“Everybody’s at the stage of the season where they’ve got a couple of niggles, and this was just managing those in a physical game more than anything.”
Orange City and Orange Emus also lock horns in the third grade preliminary final prior to the main game.