Orange CYMS will face Oberon in next weekend’s Group 10 premier league major semi-final after the Tigers stunned Bathurst Panthers in Sunday’s qualifier at Carrington Park, winning 20-16 in a massive boilover.
Just seven days earlier Panthers had thumped Oberon by 50 points at the same ground.
Granted that was a Tigers side hit hard by injury, but there remained very few outside the Oberon camp who seriously considered Luke Branighan’s men a realistic chance of producing that kind of turnaround in the space of a week.
They did though, earning the right to turn out at Wade Park next weekend against the minor premiership-winning CYMS.
When the two sides met at the Orange ground earlier this season CYMS pulled the Tigers’ pants down, winning 50-12.
Oberon’s captain-coach is confident, very confident in fact, that won’t happen again though.
“Panther and CYMS are top-notch country footy teams but, without being rude, we haven’t had a full side on the park all year. We’ve had key players out for eight to 10 weeks of the year,” Branighan fired, just after his troops trumped the Bathurst contenders.
“There’s not much between the top three sides in the competition, as we showed [on Sunday].”
Where the Tigers were leaky, at best, defensively against Panthers a week ago they were absolutely superb on Sunday afternoon.
Oberon absorbed truckloads of pressure from the men in black, turning them away often enough to secure a gritty four-point victory, one which ends Panthers’ lengthy unbeaten run.
The black and golds were also forced to come from behind to seal the win, after trailing 10-4 at half-time.
All those first half points came after the 30-minute mark though, as the two sides remarkably ground out a scoreless opening half hour.
They both had chances but were turned away, until Panthers halfback Doug Hewitt sold a dummy and jinked through the line on the half hour mark.
The kick was missed, but Jye Barrow made no mistake after Blake Lawson scored not long after.
Branighan barged his way over in the final seconds of the half, it went unconverted, to cut the deficit to six at the break.
The Tigers roared into the second half and their enthusiasm, combined with Panthers making a few errors and giving away a couple of penalties, led to tries to Jackson Brien, Tui Oloapu and Matt Ballinger.
Branighan converted two of those tries, to give Oberon a 20-10 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Blake Seager crashed over for Panthers and Barrow’s conversion slashed the gap to four points five minutes later.
It looked like the Bathurst side might get out of jail when Hewitt burrowed his way over with four minutes left, but he was held up by the desperate Oberon defence.
The grubber to finish that set went dead, and that was all she wrote as the Tigers held on.
- OBERON TIGERS 20 (Luke Branighan, Jackson Brien, Tui Oloapu, Matt Ballinger tries; Branighan 2 goals) def BATHURST PANTHERS 16 (Doug Hewitt, Blake Lawson, Blake Seager; Jye Barrow 2 goals)