OBERON Tigers have completed one of the most stunning one-week turnarounds in Group 10 history by taking down Bathurst Panthers in Sunday’s qualifying final.
Just one week after being smashed by 50 points against the Panthers the Oberon men returned to the scene of that slaughter, Carrington Park, rejuvenated and prepared to play.
The result? A stunning 20-16 success and a place in the major semi-final against minor premiers Orange CYMS.
“Panthers probably haven’t been frustrated by too many times this year by other sides, and we could tell the longer we stayed in it the more they were getting frustrated,” Tigers coach Luke Branighan said.
“They’re a quality side and no doubt they’ll be back in two weeks’ time playing the loser of us and CYMS.”
The match remained scoreless for the opening half hour.
Panthers had most of the opportunities to make the scoreboard tick over, but were forced to settle for line drop outs on several occasions.
Finally the persistence paid off in the 30th minute a Doug Hewitt dummy and step allowed him to score.
A Tigers error gifted Panthers’ Blake Lawson a try at the end of the following set. Oberon desperately appealed for an obstruction but their complaints were dismissed.
Branighan nabbed a try inside the final minute of the half to make it 10-4.
Jackson Brien gave the visitors a dream start to the new half with his try just four minutes in.
Tui Oloapu soon got the Tigers in front for the first time with his converted try on the right wing.
The hosts had plenty of possession for the following 15 minutes but couldn’t find a way to the Tigers try line.
Instead, it was Oberon winger Matt Ballinger who scored next to give his team a 20-10 lead.
Blake Seager finally broke down the Tigers defence with 11 minutes to spare but those would be the final points Panthers would find.
“It was a big improvement on their game from the week before. They had a few guys coming back from injury. They played good football and deserved to win,” Panthers manager Danny Dwyer said.
“Our effort was there, it’s just that our execution wasn’t great. We had plenty of opportunities and sets inside their 20 and we couldn’t convert them into points. We were probably guilty of playing too much sideways.”