Two years on ... Tigers ecstatic, Bushrangers heartbroken in dramatic 2015 decider

On Saturday the Orange Tigers defeated arch-rivals Bathurst Bushrangers to claim hosting rights to this year's Central West AFL grand final.

In the spirit of that achievement, the Central Western Daily harks back to two years ago, when the two sides played out one of the most dramatic deciders seen in the city in any football code ...

JUST one more minute. 

That's all Bathurst had to hang on for to end their losing run against Orange in Central West AFL grand finals.

But it didn't happen.

With a contested mark, and a calm kick, Andrew Nelson broke Bushranger hearts at Bloomfield Oval in fading light on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers claiming their third straight premiership, 10-11-71 to 10-8-68.

Nelson, like most of the Tigers forwards, have been blanketed for almost the entire match by a staunch Bushrangers defence.

But with the game on the line and a couple of kicks separating the sides, Orange lifted another gear.

One of their most experienced and classiest players, Tim Barry, kicked two crucial last quarter goals and made arguably the most important play of the match.

Nelson's goal will be the incident remembered in years to come, but it was Barry who delivered the game-turning moment.

With around four minutes to play and trailing by 11 points, Barry mowed down Bushrangers defender Tom Regan and won a holding-the-ball free kick, and went back and kicked the goal to bring the deficit below a goal.

It was the type of desperate effort that typified what was a classic decider.

VIDEO: Andrew Nelson's premiership-winning goal and the Tigers' celebrations:

"We hadn't given up hope at all, we had a similar game three weeks ago in Bathurst where we were 40 points down at one stage and still came back so at no stage did we give it away," winning coach Nathan Pearce said.

"They had Jordan Longmore up forward who I think kicked six or seven and he dominated but once that ball hit the ground our defence was very quick to get it out and get us on the front foot again.

"It really was a 50-50 game all day. Andrew Nelson hadn't had the best of days but suddenly he won the game."

There was never much between the two sides in a match that had all the momentum shifts you'd expect in such a close epic.

After Paul Long opened the scoring inside a couple of minutes with Bathurst's first goal, Orange hit back quickly with three in a row and started to get a little break on their rivals before a Cameron Richards steadier just before quarter-time.

A nine-point margin reflected Orange's superiority early but Longmore took control of the game for the Bushrangers in the second term.

He booted four majors as his contested marking began to have a serious impact, and Orange battled to find an adequate one-on-one match for him.

VIDEO: What the coaches had to say after the full-time siren:

The rest of their defence was tight however and they didn't let things get out of hand, restricting Bathurst to a one goal lead at the main break.

In the third, Bathurst spurned a couple of early shots in the third but even Longmore's misses were hurting Orange, as Tom Markey clunked a good grab deep in the right forward pocket and nailed a checkside kick for goal.

Dale Hunter pulled a badly needed major back for Orange when Bathurst threatened to get away but it was quickly negated by Longmore's fifth, and a Daniel Donato snap gave the Bushies a 17-point lead approaching three-quarter time.

Mick Rothnie nailed his team's seventh just before the siren as the intensity of the game started to lift via heavy tackles and marking contests.

Rothnie hit the post with a gettable shot early in the last quarter and the margin shrank to four points, with Longmore once again pushing it out to 10.

Orange were coming home the stronger, hitting targets and taking their time while the Bushrangers began to panic slightly and were rushed with their disposals.

Barry's tackle and goal set up a grandstand finish and there was a sense that something special would decide the result.

Controversy threatened to overshadow what was an absorbing contest when a 50-metre penalty gave Orange a shot from close range but it missed.

A couple of scrambled kicks brought Bathurst temporary respite before Nelson's brilliant mark, and the winning goal which brought the crowd to its feet.

VIDEO: Andew Nelson speaks about his premiership-winning mark and goal:

As the siren sounded moments later, exhausted Bathurst players sank to their knees knowing that they had given a remarkable account of themselves but still fallen short.

For Orange, it was ecstasy.

"In grand finals you have to go that extra bit, and I would hate to be on the opposite side of this sort of result," Pearce said acknowledging the Bushrangers' heartache.

"To have the self-belief, to stick together and get this result... It is just great. This is history for our club, three in a row."

For the winners Barry's influence was short but game-turning, while Josh Bubnich, Chris Rothnie, Mitchell McKenna and best-on-ground ruckman Leigh Turner were all influential.

On the other side, Long had his usual classy game, Longmore was an obvious standout, as well as Jordan Price, Sebastian Matheson and defenders Shaun Noyen and Jack Vogan.

ORANGE TIGERS 10-11-71 (Tim Barry 2, Dale Hunter 2, Dale Cameron, Zach Forostenko, Andrew Nelson, Mick Rothnie, Daniel Sadler) def BATHURST BUSHRANGERS 10-8-68 (Jordan Longmore 6, Tom Markey, Cameron Richards, Daniel Donato, Paul Long)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

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