Even though Orange Hawks kept their chances of reaching the Group 10 premier league finals alive by beating Bathurst St Pat’s on Saturday afternoon, that dream was shattered just 24 hours later by Lithgow Workies.
With their 44-36 win over Bathurst St Pat’s the two blues had moved into fifth, one point ahead of the in-form Workies, and were sweating on the Lithgow side being beaten by Mudgee on Sunday.
Considering the Dragons, the reigning champions, were hosting Workies, it’s fair to say most people were expecting that result to eventuate.
It didn’t though, Workies coming from behind to win 16-14, jumping back above Hawks into the finals frame and breaking the two blues’ hearts.
It’s a disappointing, bittersweet way for the two blues’ season – at times one which had so much potential – to come to end, but, in the overall scheme Hawks’ 2017 campaign has been a positive one.
It can’t be understated how much the two blues have improved from last year, when they won just two games on the way to finishing eighth.
Lithgow was the only side Hawks beat in 2016, and the only side they finished above as well.
Although Hawks never lost the lead after opening the scoring in the ninth minute, the two blues were by no means untroubled by the lowly Saints on Saturday.
Hawks led 26-14 at the break and had extended that lead to 18 points by the 50th minute, but the Saints never went away, in fact they actually outscored the hosts 22-18 in the second period.
Showing plenty of ticker, St Pat’s clawed their way back into the game and slashed the deficit to a converted try with just 10 minutes to go, but a Nathan Potts try in the dying stages put paid to any thoughts of a miracle comeback and kept Hawks’ dream alive in the process.
As they did against Cowra a week earlier Hawks shot out of the blocks, dominating the early stages and scoring the first three tries of the game to race to a 16-0 lead after as many minutes.
Sione Tongia scored the first nine minutes in, that was followed by Potts’ first and Jordan Baker’s first too, in the 13th and 16th minutes respectively.
Benjamin John hit back for the Saints five minutes after Baker crossed, but Hawks’ winger promptly scored two more – either side of a Bailey Waldron four-pointer – to complete a stunning first half hat-trick and push the two blues’ lead to 26-8.
Jack Mackey crossed for St Pat’s on the stroke of half-time to keep his side in the game though, Matt Ranse converting to go into the sheds trailing Hawks 26-14.
When the two blues drew first blood after the break through Tongia, many thought the floodgates would open just as they had when the two sides met in round nine.
They didn’t though, St Pat’s scoring three of the next four tries – all converted by Ranse – to give themselves a sniff at 38-32, with just 10 minutes to go.
The Saints threw plenty at the two blues, but Hawks held, before Potts went over in the 74th minute.
Heta converted to ensure his side secured the win, despite St Pat’s crossing again just before full-time.
- ORANGE HAWKS 44 (Jordan Baker 3, Sione Tongia 2, Nathan Potts 2, Jake Blimka tries; Heta 6 goals) def BATHURST ST PAT’S 36 (Benjamin John 2, Bailey Waldron, Jack Mackey, Hudson White, Nathan Lawrence, Matt Ranse tries; Ranse 4 goals)