Bathurst St Pat’s booked the first Group 10 spot in this year’s inaugural NAB Challenge after downing Orange CYMS 24-18 in a gripping under 16s grand final on Saturday.
The Saints led from start to finish after a piece of Tyler Colley class mixed with a touch of luck when his huge bomb ricocheted off the crossbar, back into his hands before he then sent a huge cut out pass to his unmarked wingman, Noah Cooney, who went over for the game’s first four-pointer.
CYMS fought gallantly from that point, and pushed St Pat’s for the duration of the 60 minutes, but ultimately the Bathurst club’s class shone through, while a brace from powerhouse fullback Ash Cosgrove helped, too.
An under 16s premiership is the ideal way to end your junior footy career but St Pat’s will look to put the cherry on top of their time in Saturday footy when they take on Group 11’s under 16s premiers in the NAB Challenge on September 23.
It’s the first year the premiers of both junior competitions will go head-to-head in the season finale, and St Pat’s will represent Group 10 along with the champion sides in the league tag, under 18s and premier league competitions crowned next Sunday.
St Pat’s coach Chris O’Neill was excited about the prospect of his group of young-guns tackling the best Group 11 has to offer.
“I kept it quiet though ... one game at a time,” he laughed.
“We hadn’t won this one yet, so why talk about the other? But I think it’s great.
“You want to test yourself against the best in the area and other groups. We’ve had trials against Sydney teams and done pretty well. If something like this comes up it’s a good challenge.”
The two sides went try-for-try throughout the first 30 minutes but the Bathurst club edged ahead 18-12 on half-time after Cosgrove scored his first.
St Pat’s then extended their lead to 24-12 in the second stanza when Cosgrove effectively bullied his way over from close range to bag his double.
It looked to be a winning margin, but CYMS, led by a mammoth effort from back-rower Liam Kennedy, didn’t let up.
The green and golds surged back into the decider on the back of a couple of massive charges from the CYMS pack, the effort rewarded with points when Andy Milne crossed in the corner.
Williams showed incredible calmness in the clutch to nail the conversion from the sideline and ensure the margin CYMS had to peg back in the final minutes of the clash was just six points.
But O’Neill’s boys hung tough at the death, repelling a few incisive CYMS raids to prevail at Sid Kallas Oval.
CYMS coach Joe Duffy cut a dejected figure after the loss but couldn’t have asked for more from his impressive group.
“We came back strong ... their first try off the post was a bit of a lucky one. We were as good a side as them today, if not better in patches, it’s tough being our last game particularly with the effort they’ve put in all season,” Duffy said.
“That’s the fairy tale finish you want, but it wasn’t to be.
Duffy praised skipper Paddy Williams and Kennedy, while also reserving mention for St Pat’s Cosgrove.
“Their fullback is a good young footballer but I can’t fault Liam’s effort,” he said.
"He’s effort all the time. He’s a really good footballer.
“I thought he was done and he just kept giving effort after effort.”
O’Neill said he always knew the grand final would be a tough one against a CYMS side that has continually pushed the blue and whites in 2018.
“They never give up against us, those guys. We got 12 in front and they got one back but we were good enough at the end,” he added.
- BATHURST ST PAT’S 24 (Ash Cosgrove 2, Josh Hanrahan, Noah Cooney tries; Tyler Colley 4 goals) def ORANGE CYMS 18 (Liam Kennedy, Cooper Monk, Andy Milne tries; Addison Williams 3 goals)