“THIS is the best I’ve ever felt.”
Orange City Lions hooker Josh Tremain echoed the sentiments of an entire club at Pride Park on Saturday after his side capped an unbeaten season with a resounding 30-16 win over Dubbo Roos in the 2012 Blowes Clothing Cup first grade grand final.
The victory, played out in front of a vocal green and orange crowd, marked the Lions’ first premiership in the top flight in 19 years.
In a tight and, at times, scrappy affair, the class of the home side proved too much for the tenacious Roos, as they ran in four tries to one to secure the silverware.
Both side’s patterns of attack were established early - Roos keeping the ball tight to the ruck, City willing to chance their arm by spinning it when presented with the opportunity.
It was the Dubbo side who settled into a rhythm soonest, riding a glut of penalties to secure the early field position and momentum.
Roos captain Tim Berry converted his side’s initial dominance into points, landing two penalties in the first 15 minutes to take the visitors out to a 6-nil advantage.
But the minor premiers struck back immediately when winger Ollie Stone raced out of the line to affect a chargedown before regathering the ball and scampering across the tryline.
Duncan Young’s conversion put the Lions in front. They were never headed.
But nor were they ever completely comfortable.
On 20 minutes Young was sin-binned, with referee Nathan Pearce’s patience wearing thin as City were repeatedly penalised at the breakdown.
Roos were unable to capitalise on their advantage, a point hammered home when their own Todd Stewart received a yellow card himself on 35 minutes and Young slotted a penalty to increase the lead to 10-6 at the interval.
City began the second stanza the better, with only a miraculous covering tackle by Roos hooker Peter Nau preventing Sione Lafo’ou from crossing out wide in the moments after the resumption.
But the visitors couldn’t hold out for long.
A delightful cut-out pass from classy centre Mesui Lemoto put Nick Quinn into space, the halfback showing too much pace as he crossed on the right wing.
Berry cut the advantage with his third penalty as City continued to sin at the breakdown and, at 15-9 with half an hour on the clock, the premiership was there for the taking.
Latching on to a Lemoto pass 20 metres from the Roos line, the Tongan flyer - renowned for his pace and step - bumped and barged his way past five defenders on his way to the tryline.
It was a remarkable display of determination and strength, one which lifted his side and seemingly drove a stake through Roos hearts.
However, a spectacular try to Roos winger Niklas Moore and conversion to Berry got the Roos back within six with 10 to play.
But then Young showed his poise to slot a penalty goal to take the lead beyond a converted try, before City fullback Sam Powell put the icing on the premiership cake with a five-pointer in the shadows of full time.
Orange City coach Steve Hamson paid tribute to his side’s defence, which was breached just once in 80 minutes.
“We knew they would play it close, play it in the forwards and try to beat us there,” Hamson said.
“It was up to our defence to stand up to that and grind them out of the game. That we were able to do that is a credit to the entire team.
“We had some lucky breaks, but we took our chances when we got them and it was a deserved win.”
Roos mentor Gus McDonald had not complaint with the result.
“They’ve been the best side in the competition all year, so they deserve the win,” a magnanimous McDonald said.
“They took their chances and we didn’t. And that’s what games like this are all about.”
McDonald noted that while his troops were disappointed, the achievements of the year were substantial.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said.
“Just 18 months ago about ten of these boys played in a side that got beaten by Narromine by 50 points, so to make a grand final is still a fantastic effort.”
For the victors, Lomoto was a standout, while John Colgan, deputising for the unwell Nathan Short, was a tower of strength.
For Dubbo, Nau was a certainty for best on ground, ably supported by centre Fabian Tago and the tireless Berry.
ORANGE CITY LIONS 30 (Ollie Stone, Nick Quinn, Sione Lafo’ou, Sam Powell tries, Duncan Young 2 convs, Young 2 pens) def DUBBO ROOS 16 (Niklas Moore try, Tim Berry conv, Berry 3 pens).