Group 10 has produced one of its gutsiest performances in a decade, Oberon half Matt Ranse starring in a 22-14 triumph over Western rivals Group 11 at Forbes.
Graeme Osborne's side only had 14 confirmed players as late as Friday afternoon and bumped that number up to 15 when selector Royce George bumped in Panthers lock Jake Betts having a schnitzel at the pub on Friday night.
Group 10 made the trip to Forbes two players short and selectors were hoping a couple of late phone calls would rally the troops but the call to arms didn't succeed.
Luckily for Osborne, though, Workies centre Keelan Bresac was in Forbes to watch girlfriend Shannon Legge play with the Group 10 league tag side and ended up lacing up a pair of boots that belonged to trainer Anthony Boza and played on the wing.
WESTERN CLUSTER PHOTOS: All the action from Saturday's Group 10 and Group 11 derbies
Still, Group 10 played the entire 80 minutes minus a reserve and lost Jack Siejka just after the break after the Panthers backrower copped a heavy knock.
The visiting blues went down in the penalties 8-6 and trailed 8-0 by the 29th minute following tries to Group 11 pair Alex Ronayne and Brock Naden.
But Osborne's side showed immense grit and a dogged determination you wouldn't normally see from a representative side to firstly grind their way back into the contest and then power over the top of an impressive Group 11 line-up, Ranse scoring a second-half double to sit alongside tries from Jackson Brien and Casey Burgess in the 22-14 victory at Spooner Oval.
Osborne was filled with pride following the win, a second straight Group 10 victory over Group 11 after last year's 40-28 win in Bathurst.
"With everything that's gone on in the last week-and-a-half it's been a great effort. I think what won us the game was our defensive effort. We never gave up," Osborne said.
It's a sentiment shared by skipper Greg Behan.
The big Lithgow prop wasn't originally part of the Group 10 line-up but with props Brent Seager, Ethan McKellar and Josh Starling all withdrawals, the Workies man-mountain was a perfect leader for this side.
He and fellow prop Jack Mackey charged at the Group 11 defense all game and alongside Ranse and fullback Brien, were Group 10's best in the memorable victory.
FT | #Group10 trumps #Group11 at Forbes with a 22-14 victory, Matt Ranse named MOTM— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) June 15, 2019
Greg Behan was skipper and he's extremely proud of his side's will to win, despite having just 16 men all game.
"I think we're all really proud, that's for sure," Behan said.
"We came here with three reserves ... bit of a disrupted week, but the boys spoke about sticking together and playing simple footy."
Behan said he wasn't phased when Group 10 dipped to an early deficit and said his side's "competitiveness" was the key.
"When you only have one training run you cant rely on structures too much, it's purely the will to win," he added.
Brien's four-pointer five minutes before the half-time break really sparked Group 10 into action, he burst through some flimsy Group 11 defence on tackle one and raced 65 metres to score a great individual try and bring the score back to 8-6.
Burgess then scored 10 minutes after half-time, pouncing on a perfectly weighted Ryan Griffin grubber kick to gift Group 10 the lead for the first time in the game, albeit only a slender one at 10-8.
It was soon 16-8 though when Ranse injected himself into the game, the wiry Tigers half putting in a kick that Group 11 winger Sam Coe fumbled into the path of the Group 10 chasers, Ranse there to juggle the spoils and spectacularly regather his own fumble to touchdown, momentum firmly in the blues' sails with 25 minutes remaining in the contest.
Coe made up for the mishap somewhat, though, the Macquarie speedster scoring a converted try in the corner to bring the margin back to two points but Ranse had his second almost immediately after.
44 | Group game back after a loooooong break thanks to a 16-man #Group10 hiding away in the sheds.— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) June 15, 2019
It's been fierce to open the second period, and some concern now for Siejka. He gets up groggy. Surely won't be back.
Group 10 down to 15 and down 8-6 #repfooty#westernrams
The Oberon livewire produced a chip-and-chase and then out-paced the Group 11 cover defence to complete his brace and give Group 10 a 20-14 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Group 11 threatened a fightback but any thoughts of a final stand quickly evopated when Wade Kavanagh was handed five minutes in the swear bin, Ranse safely piloting home the resulting penalty to kick Group 10's lead out to the final 22-14 margin.
"The message was to just go out there and enjoy the game," Osborne added.
"I think they all worked well. A lot of the players only came together Thursday, Friday afternoon. Both the Betts boys, we called Jake up (Friday) afternoon from the pub when he was having a feed.
It's been a while since we've doubled up and it makes it sweeter coming over here and knocking them off.Group 10 coach Graeme Osborne.
"The camaraderie is there, which is great."
Osborne was at the helm of the last Group 10 team that won back-to-back rep games against Group 11 in 2013-14, too.
"It's been a while since we've doubled up and it makes it sweeter coming over here and knocking them off," he said.
"It's about time we got another game back in Group 10."
- GROUP TEN 22 (Matt Ranse, Casey Burgess, Jackson Brien tries; Matt Ranse 2, Mitch Squires goals) def GROUP ELEVEN 14 (Sam Coe, Brock Naden, Alex Ronayne tries; Mason Williams goal)
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