CSU BATHURST players were left in tears when a last-second try to Tom Johnson gave Orange City a thrilling 12-11 victory in the Colts preliminary final at No.1 Oval on Saturday.
The students were dismayed as they believed time was up when an Orange City player was held up over the line before referee John Colgan ruled the ensuing scrum would be packed.
The Lions, who were trailing 11-7 at the time, employed a short-side play and Johnson was on hand to score his second try of the afternoon and the match-winner.
It provided a controversial finish to a match which never reached any great heights but was intriguing the whole way, especially with the vocal CSU support crew twice drawing the attention of the referee, who asked ground officials to speak with them.
CSU went into the match heavy favourites on the back of finishing second on the ladder at the end of the regular season and pushing the unbeaten Dubbo Kangaroos to just six points the previous week.
But Orange City stuck strong and were ultimately rewarded with a place in this Saturday’s grand final.
Lions coach Anthony Sullivan admitted afterwards he thought his side got out of jail.
“To tell you the truth I thought the time was up but you never really know because the referee is the sole timekeeper,” Sullivan said.
“In saying that though I am proud of our boys because they played out the whole game and came up with a good play when the game was on the line.
“We let them get away to an 8-0 lead early but got a try right on half-time to get back in it and we scored right on full-time so we played both halves to the end and in the end that is what got us the win.”
Meanwhile, heartbroken CSU captain Jacques Kruger was philosophical about the match’s conclusion.
“That’s football,” he said.
“We thought we had done enough to hold on but the referee makes the decisions and we have to deal with them.
“It’s tough because we have had a good year and we only lost to the Roos by six last week so we thought we could compete with them if we got to the grand final but I suppose we will never know.”
ORANGE CITY LIONS 12 (Tom Johnson 2 tries; Joe Alexander conv) def CSU BATHURST 11 (Mitch Aquilina try; Jarrod Frecklington 2 pens).