IF you thought Orange CYMS were dead and buried with captain-coach Mick Sullivan and former NSW Country half Warick Colley out injured, think again.
In front of one of the biggest Group 10 crowds seen in recent memory, the two-time defending premiers let new recruit Claude Gordon loose, with the live-wire No.7 posting 15 points and setting up three other tries to help CYMS win the first Orange derby of 2012 43-6 over Orange Hawks.
Sullivan said the green and golds had a real talent on their hands.
“He is definitely a footballer. He really embraced the opportunity to be the guy to lead the team around,” Sullivan said.
“He was one of our best.”
Hawks started the better of the two, benefiting from a string of penalties in the opening exchanges that allowed Todd Barrow to slot home a penalty attempt, giving the two blues a 2-0 lead.
But CYMS soon hit back.
Damaging prop Terawhiti Cooper brushed off two would-be Hawks tacklers to open the scoring for his side, with Gordon adding the extras for a 6-2 lead.
CYMS had their second of the evening shortly after when Gordon put through a lovely grubber kick for centre Kurt Beahan, who then drew Hawks fullback Brock McGarity to put Gordon over under the sticks for a converted try.
And when Scott Piper crossed out wide five minutes later, CYMS led 16-6.
A field goal from Gordon right on half-time took the home side’s lead to 11 at the break.
Sullivan said he was happy with his side’s first-half effort.
So too was Hawks coach James Wynne with his side’s opening 40 minutes.
Wynne, though, would have been a little happier about his side’s second half had Hawks not been called back for a forward pass with centre Jake Davis streaking away with only the try line in sight.
With 20 minutes remaining in the contest, a Hawks try would have brought them right back into the match.
It proved a pivotal moment in the game.
Just two minutes later CYMS hooker Sam Hill burst the game wide open, darting out of dummy half to put a flying Tim Bassmann over for CYMS’ fourth try and a 23-6 lead.
It broke Hawks’ back.
From there, the green and golds ran in a further four tries - two to winger Jacob Sutherland - to round out the memorable 37-point win.
Sullivan had a feeling his side would turn on a show for the massive Wade Park crowd.
“It didn’t surprise me in the end,” he said.
“We trained the best we have in six months on Thursday. We built during the week. Monday was a bit ordinary, Tuesday was a bit better and then Thursday we had a really good day. The boys really took the challenge. I couldn’t be happier.”
Wynne said CYMS were simply too strong.
“To tell you the truth we competed at different stages during the game but obviously they were a step ahead of us... a fair way ahead of us at this point in time,” Wynne said.
“I was pretty happy with our first half. Although we were behind on the scoreboard I thought we controlled the ball a lot better and defensively we weren’t too bad. I think tries will come with combinations and continuity but, at the end of the day, we weren’t as good as them.”
Sullivan said the most pleasing aspect of the win was the way the club’s depth held strong.
Without stars like Sullivan (hamstring), Colley (broken ankle), centre Dom Maley (hamstring) and with Beahan leaving the field injured before half-time, CYMS’ young stars, led by Gordon, stood tall.
“The club’s in a good position,” the former NRL player said.
“They threw a lot at us and they came out looking sharp. To our credit we’re playing out best football when we’re defending at our best and that’s what we did. We scrambled, and to go into half-time with a lead after what they’d thrown at us early, I thought the game was ours.”