“It was our own fault”.
Five simple words from player-coach Dale Hunter, that perfectly describe the Orange Tigers’ frustration after they let a major semi-final win and with it decider hosting rights slip through their fingers on Saturday.
Despite a distinct lack of discipline and boom forward Tim Barry standing on the sidelines, the Tigers still led at all three breaks at Waratahs Sportsground on Saturday afternoon, taking a nine-point buffer into the final term.
That’s when it all went wrong for the home side.
As the Tigers let their foot off the gas the Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels put the pedal to the metal, the latter slotting five goals to one the former’s lone behind in a massive swing.
That swing secured the Rebels’ stunning, 21-point, come-from-behind victory and means the deciders will be played at Bathurst’s George Park in a fortnight.
“The way they played in that last quarter, it was the best we’ve seen them all year. They blindsided us a bit, so they deserve hosting rights,” Hunter lamented.
“It was our own fault. We could’ve had them goalless at half-time, their only two first-half majors came from 50-metre penalties, so we let them back into the game with our discipline, or lack thereof.
“Maybe they wanted it more, maybe we thought we’d done enough and put the cue in the rack, because for three quarters of the game I thought we were the better side.”
The loss was the Tigers’ third in their past four starts and only their fourth for the season, the side faltering slightly in the back end of the year.
Hunter remains confident his side will be there on grand final day though, it’s just a matter of getting back to their best against the Bathurst Giants this weekend.
The Giants took down the Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws by 15 points in Saturday’s minor semi-final, and will travel to Waratahs Sportsground for the preliminary play-off as a result.
The fact the grand final qualifier is at Tiger Park should help, Hunter says, but the Giants actually took the chocolates the last time the two sides met at Waratahs.
“We know their best can be good enough if we don’t play well and they’re a bit unpredictable too,” Hunter said of the Giants.
“After the weekend, I’d hope that everyone in the side knows now that you’re not going to win these games without playing four quarters though.”
Hunter confirmed Barry will play this weekend as well, another big boost for the black and golds.
“He’s had a niggle since the Parkes game and we made the late decision on Saturday to not risk him, he was about 90 per cent and we want him at 100 per cent, he’ll roll the dice this weekend,” Hunter said.
“He gives us a lot of confidence and a big target up front, that might make our kicks into the forward 50 a little quicker. When we did that well on the weekend more often than not we still scored, which was a positive and I think we have to look for those.”
- BATHURST BUSHRANGERS REBELS 11.9.75 (Bill Watterson 5, Kaleb Crowhurst 2, Matt Luther, Brian Matheson, Troy Robinson, Cam Richards goals) def ORANGE TIGERS 8.6.54 (Chris Rothnie 2, Kirk Phillips 2, Lucas Kelly, Tyson Hannus, Pierce Frecklington, Tom Gibbons goals)
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