CSU Bathurst have narrowly survived a Mudgee Wombats charge for the second time this New Holland Agriculture Cup season, booking their ticket to the grand final in the process.
Inspired defence from the students, in particular along the edges, and another hat-trick for centre Regan Hughes were the highlights in CSU's 32-29 success at University Oval in Saturday's preliminary final.
It was a huge mental hurdle for the hosts to clear after they fell at the preliminary final stage last season.
Now they have the opportunity to get their revenge against defending champions Narromine Gorillas in the upcoming decider.
Mudgee certainly made them earn it.
"They really pegged us back there towards the end. If we made an error close to the line we were always in big trouble against their scrums," CSU coach David Conyers said.
"All their tries were scored off scrums or mauls. They weren't scoring anything around us at all. Our backline defence was really strong.
"Regan Hughes was simply outstanding. He had probably the best game he's had all year. He destroyed them."
The clubs exchanged early points as Hughes and Mudgee's David Jessiman scored what would be the first of their three respective tries.
Jack Keppel landed an early field goal attempt in just the 10th minute and it would ultimately prove the point of difference at the full-time whistle.
Aden Macdougall's converted try pushed the score out to 15-5 in the hosts favour although Mudgee were quick to respond through Tom Dudek.
Five minutes before the break Glen Pollard found himself in space down the right wing and bolted home to make it 20-10 at half-time.
Hughes found try number two just a matter of minutes into the new term as CSU threatened to run away with it.
Mudgee quelled that idea through a Tom O'Leary try.
The end-to-end nature continued when, again, Hughes and Jessiman scored tries in close succession.
Wombats, as they did in last month's 24-19 result, forced the students to work overtime in defence thanks to their dominance in set pieces.
CSU's defence stepped up in the clutch and limited Jessiman to a consolation try after the full-time siren.
Conyers will now prepare his side for another meeting against the Gorillas, who thumped CSU 57-10 in the major semi-final.
"In 2010, when Bulldogs won their premiership over Narromine, they went up there for the major semi-final and got hammered. Then they went up there and won the grand final," he said.
"Things can happen if you turn up mentally. If we minimise the errors and not be overawed by the fact it's at Narromine - it's just another footy field - then we give ourselves a better chance."
- CSU BATHURST 32 (Regan Hughes 3, Glen Pollard, Aden Macdougall tries; Jack Keppel 2 conversions) def MUDGEE WOMBATS 29 (Dave Jessiman 3, Tom O'Leary, Thomas Dudek tries; Brian O'Reilly 2 conversions)
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