Orange High School salvaged some pride from this week's third and final tie of the 2019 Astley Cup by taking down Dubbo College on Wednesday and Thursday and, considering the Hornets' youth, they look poised for an all-out assault on the title next year.
The Hornets' side, as a whole, only had a handful of finishing year 12 students and their 2019 campaign combined with the extra year of experience they'll gain before the next edition bodes well, so says Orange High's Astley Cup coordinator Tegan Dray.
"That's right, we didn't have too many year 12s in our team at all this year, we were quite young and that does bode well for the next year or two," she said.
The young Hornets came from behind to win this week's tie 408-392, at Orange. After Dubbo led by 20 points following Wednesday's opening day the two schools actually split Thursday's four events, winning two apiece.
Overall, discounting Wednesday's 6-all tennis draw, that actually gave the visiting Dubbo College a 4-3 advantage in terms of sports won as the claimed athletics, boys' football, basketball and rugby league wins, but that wasn't enough to secure the overall victory.
Orange High's winning margins proved the difference, with Thursday afternoon's whopping 14-1 win in the hockey all but deciding the tie.
The overall scores were deadlocked at 300 apiece heading into that fixture following Orange High's 53-24 netball win and Dubbo's 36-25 basketball victory, they equated to 69-31 and 59-41 overall points splits receptively.
But, shrugging off last week's shock, 1-all draw with Bathurst, Orange High's red-hot hockey side ran rampant and secured a 94-6 overall points split with a 15-1 win.
That left the hosts needing to pick up just seven points from the rugby league fixture to claim the tie win.
Dubbo won that game at Wade Park 62-10, but with the 86-14 points split the Hornets sealed the tie victory.
WATCH: Orange and Dubbo get in a little push-and-shove during Thursday's basketball fixture...
That rugby league fixture left the entire crowd's heart pumping too.
Dubbo led 62-4 with just two minutes to go and that scoreline would've been a 94-6 split, which would've given the visitors a tie victory.
Orange High received a penalty within skipper Ryan Manning's range and that penalty goal, heck even a field goal, would've been enough to push the Hornets over the line.
He opted against it, fortunately managing to regather his own kick in the resulting set and brush off two would-be defenders to score.
It was his second try of the game and he promptly converted it to score all over Orange High's points and land himself hero status among the Hornets group.
"We were all screaming at him from the sideline to take the penalty goal, he didn't, but luckily enough he managed to score anyway," Dray laughed.
"It was a very, very exciting finish."
Even thought the tie meant nothing in terms of the cup - Bathurst claimed that last week - both Dray and Dubbo sports captain Brock Larance agreed it was about more than that.
"Sure it might have been a dead rubber in terms of the result, but we all still had something to fight for," Dray said.
"I can't fault our competitors and spectators at all, the way they go about it and the way they approach each and every game is just amazing, we're very proud of them and we always have been.
"We still have that rivalry with Dubbo so it's still great and, really, winning's winning but if you learn something along the way and have a great time then it's worth it regardless."
"It's always special, it's always great to come to Orange and even though it's worth nothing in terms of the cup both teams played hard and showed great sportsmanship," Larance added.
"It still means a lot, especially to the year 12 students. A lot of people might think 'well there's no point with Bathurst already winning the cup' but it means a lot, especially to the year 12 students. For example, there was a couple of guys in our [boys' football] side who desperately wanted to finish with a win.
"I actually think it's better playing Orange than Bathurst, the atmosphere is always great and it's a bit closer, a bit more of a battle."
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