Orange High School faces an uphill battle in its quest for back-to-back Astley Cup titles after, heart-breakingly, falling to its Bathurst counterpart in the opening tie on Thursday and Friday.
The loss makes next week’s tie against Dubbo Senior Campus, in Orange, a must-win one for the Hornets in they’re any chance of fulfilling that dream.
But, the tiny four-point margin – Bathurst won 402-398 – means the hurdle is a substantially smaller one for the black and golds to overcome.
It was a thrilling second day too.
Bathurst led by 67 points overnight before a remarkable Orange High comeback gave the Hornets the lead.
But a magical win from the hosts in the rugby league forced a nail-biting end, which ultimately came down to the final jump of the rescheduled high jump fixture.
The rugby league fixture was locked at 20-20 with five minutes to go before two late Bathurst tries sealed a 30-20 win for the hosts.
That’s exactly the deficit they needed, it left Orange High with a one-point lead and forced the re-staging of the high jump.
The high jump was cancelled on Thursday’s opening day after an Orange High jumper injured himself, and was only going to be re-staged if the seven points still on offer from it would decide the fixture.
Ultimately, those handful of points did just that.
With one final jump left to seal the victory, Orange High faltered, handing Bathurst first and second in that event and also the four-point overall victory.
“The heart was in the mouth at the footy, when we were down 10-0 early and then the rugby league boys came back to give us a 60-40 split,” Bathurst coordinator Josh Lawlor said.
“Then we had to come over and finish the high jump. [We] just wanted it a little bit more. It was just great to see, after a couple of years without it, that we could actually get it back.
“It’s really good, considering how strong Orange are at the moment. I can’t speak highly enough of the kids (but) it’s never over.
“Dubbo could could beat us and Orange could beat them and still end up with the cup.
Orange hosts Dubbo next week, Bathurst goes to Dubbo the week after.