First CYMS, now Hawks: Panthers make a habit of bundling out Orange's Group 10 sides

BATHURST Panthers' burgeoning 2014 Group 10 campaign will live on at least another week after the men in black knocked off Orange Hawks 30-22 at Wade Park on Saturday.

On the back of some ambitious rugby league just to qualify for this year's final series, Panthers plucked the final place in this year's top five from defending premiers Orange CYMS and after Saturday's eight-point win over the two blues appear set on offering much more than nuisance value in this year's finals series.

Physical, fast and, crucially, firing at the right time of the year, John Fearnley's young Panthers outfit stormed home after trailing the hosts 16-0 after 24 minutes to claim a memorable elimination semi-final victory.

"In that first half we made a lot of mistakes," Fearnley began.

"But we showed a lot of character and kept hanging in, and that's what we've been doing for the last six or seven weeks.

"That bit of momentum really helped us out today."

Gutted his side wasn't up to the challenge, Hawks captain-coach Tim Mortimer said it was bitterly disappointing not to be able to offer more in 2014.

"We don't deserve to be there at the end of the day because we just can't play footy like that and expect to win, especially at finals time," Mortimer fired.

"I didn't think it was going to happen but we found ourselves out now. 

"She's shot this season, it's very disappointing. 

"I know we've got it in us to win, it's just silly little errors and discipline problems that gift them metres and time and it just hurt us in the end."

Watch our video of what the coaches had to say after full time:

And, initially anyway, it was discipline and schoolboy errors that were seriously hampering Panthers bid a victory.

And the two blues made them pay.

Out of the blocks in blistering fashion, Hawks scored three great tries to Keegan Harding, Alofi Mataele and Arty Shead, with two successful Brock McGarity conversions soaring the hosts out to a 16-point advantage.

But when the tide turned Panthers lifted.

And, after a quick-fire brace to timeless centre William Kennedy, the visitors then found themselves back in the hunt on the back of a 16-12 score line at halftime.

As it was when Panthers thrashed Hawks 36-8 last weekend, the second half belonged to the men in black.

A see-sawing opening to the second stanza began with Jake Betts scoring a relatively soft try next to the sticks before Hawks dug in and hit back through Travis Bubb, his sheer determination rewarded with a converted four-pointer that handed the two blues back a 22-18 lead.

With 18 minutes remaining, Joey Bugg then sliced through out of acting half to hand Panthers back the lead, Lawson's conversion took his team out to a two-point advantage.

The bullocking centre then had a four-pointer of his own when the bounce of the ball from a Blake Dean kick cruelled Hawks winger Toby Wright, Lawson swooped on the spoils to secure Panthers a 30-22 lead.

Inside the final 10 minutes, the hosts had a number of chances to lift the intensity and etch back into the contest, but the continuity that brought about a string of nine consecutive wins mid-year was amiss on Saturday.

Panthers held firm to claim the win and book a date with the loser of Sunday's Cowra and Mudgee qualifying semi-final.

Careful not to place too much pressure on a young team clearly brimming with confidence, Fearnley said just how far this Panthers outfit goes is anyone's guess.

"I don't know," he said when asked if Panthers can push further this year.

"The young blokes are playing with plenty of confidence at the moment and there's plenty of belief in one and other. We're just going to keep showing up each week and whatever happens, happens."

Kennedy was outstanding, as were forwards Osea Sadrau and brother Blake and Brent Seager.

For Hawks, Shead was enormous up front while Joe Lasagavibau and Mortimer were both sound out wide.

"It's still disappointing," Mortimer said.

"We made it last year, and even though we lost, we had something to be proud of. This year it's just an emptiness in my belly at the moment."

BATHURST PANTHERS 30 (William Kennedy 2, Blake Lawson, Joey Bugg, Jake Betts tries; Lawson 5 goals) def ORANGE HAWKS 22 (Arty Shead, Keegan Harding, Alofi Mataele, Travis Bubb tries; Brock McGarity 3 goals).


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