It was a hard, tough game - as Byrne-Long clashes always tend to be - but the Orange Tigers fought their way to claim a gritty 38-point win over Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws.
In the two club's annual square-off for the cup dedicated to two legends at either club, it was debutant Pete Byrne, the son of Tigers' legend Mark, who stood up and kicked three crucial goals through the middle of the game to push his side to a 13.7.85 to 7.5.47 win at Waratahs Sportsground.
The clash also pitted the two sides from last year's grand final against each other, but Orange had only six players from that premiership side playing, while the Bushrangers' two sides change each year with their draft.
[He told me to] go hard at the footy and play your best.Tigers debutant Pete Byrne on the advice given to him from father and club legend Mark during the week
While the debutant Byrne said there were nerves heading into the game, he didn't show it on the field as he started down back and moved his way forward in the second and third quarters to hit the scoreboard.
"It was a little bit faster and harder than I'm used to but it was good to get the first goal, it felt good," he said.
He'd said he initially hadn't realised it was the Byrne-Long Cup when he was named, and his old man had kept the advice simple during the week.
"I'd only realised it was the Byrne-Long Cup yesterday so I hadn't really prepared but wasn't really thinking about it until the day," he said.
VIDEO: One of the Tigers goals on Saturday ...
"[He told me to] go hard at the footy and play your best."
However, he added it was special debuting in a Cup game, with Mark running messages for the side during the game.
All 48 players named went hard at the football all day, with neither side taking a backward step.
Despite the Tigers kicking the opening goal, the Bushrangers held the upper hand in the opening break having kicked three goals, with despite all coming from free kicks had been worked for with repeated entry into the forward 50.
The whistles kept blowing all day making for a stop-start affair but the Tigers slammed on four goals to zip in the second quarter kicking with the wind on the back of midfield work from captain Mick Evans, best-on-ground Logan Crimp and a tenacious Kirk Phillips.
First-gamer Vinnie Cost-Chretien kicked one from long range in the opening 30 seconds and Tyson Hannus, who finished with four, made himself busy on the half-forward line and Mark Mori started clunking marks.
The side's two Maxes, Blysma and Stainkamph, also combined for a goal after the latter snuck forward and the young forward, who had a strong game in the air and crumbing packs up forward, found him in space.
Andrew Adams and James Leven were strong in the Bathurst forward line with three and two goals respecitvely against a Tigers' makeshift defence missing most of its regulars filled by Andrew Nelson and Sam Neville, who normally play ruck and full-forward respectively.
We kept fighting right to the end, it was one of those games where the ball didn't bounce our way but we didn't drop our heads.Outlaws coach Steve Grundy
In the third quarter Pete Grundy and Ben Horne started dominating with Seb Matheson in the ruck.
Horne was a clearance machine while Grundy was dangerous in the midfield or up forward, and the impressive trio sparked a third-quarter fightback with the breeze as they made the most of Matheson's dominant hitout craft, kicking three goals to cut the Tigers' lead to 14 points at the final change.
However, five goals in the final quarter with the wind put the game beyond doubt, but Outlaws coach Steve Grundy said he was proud of his side to continue fighting.
"We kept fighting right to the end, it was one of those games where the ball didn't bounce our way but we didn't drop our heads, the tackling pressure was there all day and we kept fighting for the footy," Grundy said.
He lauded his brother Pete's game, and also midfielder Hamish Keith who was playing his first game after crossing from rugby union.
"On half back and through the middle his attack on the ball was fantastic and just what we wanted," Grundy said.
Alex Crajcer was also impressive on defence in his first game in Bathurst colours in nearly a decade.
"Early on in the season, probably not our best performance but a real arm-wrestle of a game. Orange probably did the little things better than us."
... the captain, coach, everyone was getting around us.Tigers debutant Charlie Kemp
However, his side wasn't helped by only having 17 confirmed at 10am on Friday, and while all clubs struggle early in the season several of the Outlaws' players had never trained or played together.
"We knew the lead-in to Easter was going to be tough for us. I think we showed enough today, it was initially getting to Easter and then we get enough blokes back after that," Grundy said.
Tigers' debutant Kemp said it was a massive win for the side and showed despite personnel losses in the off-season, the Tigers were playing for each other.
"It was a good game and good to get the win and have all the boys around us, the captain, coach, everyone was getting around us," Kemp said.
He said it was special to make his debut alongside Byrne, and the match was a change of pace from playing with the GWS Giants academy.
"Bit slower than I'm used to but definitely more physical ... it took me a while to adapt to it but it was a good challenge."
The win leaves the Tigers on top of the ladder two rounds into the season.
Orange Tigers 13.7.85 (Hannus 4, Byrne 3, Crimp, Mori, Welisara, Cost-Chretien, Stainkamph, Campbell) defeated Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws 7.5.47 (Adams 3, Leven 2, Grundy, Cook).
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE AND REGIONAL SPORT?
- Receive our free newsletters delivered to your inbox, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up below ...