In many ways, Saturday’s Centennial Coal Cup (CCC) grand final success by Kandos Waratahs has replicated their 2009 title.
The Waratahs took top honours in a competition in which they have been ornaments for nine years by defeating CSU Yellow 46-18, completing an unbeaten season, as they did four years ago.
CSU shocked the Waratahs in the first 30 minutes with the game’s first two tries and a 12-nil lead, and were playing all over the premiership favourites.
They had brought their grand final game with them and found form in the first half they had rarely produced in ordinary competition games all year, and the Waratahs seemed to have difficulty adjusting their attitude to their first true contest of the year.
Kandos, in the first half hour, were barely given an opportunity to display their attacking skills due to a combination of CSU’s strong defence, a string of penalties and uncharacteristic handling errors.
The initial exchanges between the sides were even but with their run of penalties, CSU were able to pressure the Waratahs and dominate the early part of the game.
Leading 6-nil after winger Alec Walsh’s 10th-minute try, which was converted by joint CCC player of the year Steven Gibbs, the university side was over again three minutes later with four points to fullback Brad Dewar and another conversion by Gibbs.
Confronted by opposition not encountered all season, the Waratahs began to overcome their self-inflicted dilemma with the style they had been producing all season.
Cody Cafe scored in the 15th minute to make it 12-6 and his centre partner, Todd Munn, bagged Kandos’ second following great lead-up work by Trent Anderson and Ray Thorn.
Nearing half-time Cafe’s second try, from a neat Tim Condon pass 10 metres from CSU’s line, gave Kandos the lead for the first time, and with Cody Strickland’s kick waved away, Kandos took a 16-12 lead to the break.
Second-rower Kieran Wagstaff was as dangerous as any of the CSU forwards, and was drawing attention from his Kandos opposites every time he handled the ball.
However, the Waratahs scored within two minutes of the restart when one of their season’s most reliable players, Bryan Jenkins, crossed for a converted try.
Two minutes later five-eighth Jackson McKay, in a powerful run, scored off another Tim Condon final pass, converted by Strickland to increase the score to 28-12.
The body language of the CSU players indicated they were resigned to their fate.
Fullback Ben Thompson’s converted try after only another two minutes was scored after an initial break by Cafe linking with a flying Christian Olofsson down the grandstand side left the Bathurst side looking dejected.
Thompson was on hand six minutes later when he backed up Condon, who cut through the defensive line 35 metres out and off-loaded to his fullback.
The try again converted by Strickland and Kandos led the students 40-12 with 30 minutes to go.
CSU, despite a 28-point deficit, did not fold as they did in the major semi-final two weeks earlier, holding up Adam Perini over the try line.
At the 70th minute Munn was rewarded for his fine efforts with the final Kandos try, converted, for 46-12.
Replacement Kurt Thompson was penalised on the Waratahs’ line and sin-binned for an indiscretion in the final minutes, and referee Dale Harding awarded an anti-climactic penalty try to CSU forward Phil Brent.
To come from behind, 12 points down, and win a grand final by 28 points indicates the qualities of a champion side and, after taking this year’s title, coach Glenn Sargent has a 100 per cent strike rate in grand finals at Kandos, with the Waratahs’ first win in 28 years in 2009, and then his second on Saturday.
CCC Player of the Year Cody Strickland was named man of the match while Cody Cafe, Bryan Jenkins and Todd Munn were stand outs too.
KANDOS WARATAHS 46 (Cody Cafe 2, Ben Thompson 2, Todd Munn 2, Bryan Jenkins, Jackson McKay; Cody Strickland 7 goals) def CSU YELLOW 18 (Alec Walsh, Brad Dewar, Phil Bent; Steve Gibbs 3 goals).