Bathurst Panthers have ensured the Group 10 premier league minor premiership battle will go down to the final week of the regular season after easily accounting for Cowra Magpies on Sunday and, most importantly, doing so by a big margin.
Panthers showed some of their best defence this season in a 30-nil victory at Carrington Park, led by a big game from fullback and two-try scorer Josh Rivett.
Player-coach Doug Hewitt was quick to praise his Panthers' work off the ball in the victory, which keeps his side level on points with competition leaders Orange Hawks.
"We're more happy with the nil side of that score. Over the last few weeks we've let in a few soft tries but all the boys turned up with the right attitude today and it showed on the field," he said.
"There were a couple of dropped balls and other things going on in the ruck but we'll tidy that up over the next week. It's a top effort from the boys to get up for a game in conditions like this."
Magpies are now forced to play the waiting game during a final round bye, they'll miss the finals if Orange CYMS win their remaining two games, although it remains to be seen if one of those will be played or not.
"If we get into finals then we've just got to hit the reset button," coach Kurt Hancock said.
"We made too many errors today and I thought we were a bit flat in the warm up as well. You can't turn the ball over to these fellas. Whenever we got in good field position that's what happened.
"In the first half I thought our goal line defence was outstanding but it just felt like we had no field position."
Cowra created the early opportunities to score but on two occasions close to the Panthers try line they were undone by forward passes.
Panthers opened the scoring against the run of play when Rivett leapt high to snatch a bomb after it bounced.
The hosts coughed up a couple of chance of their own shortly after they opened the scoring but eventually they came across more points before half-time.
Brad Fearnley took a hit up close to the Cowra line and spun away from his defender to take the score out to 10-0.
Willie Wright added the extras from in front, as he had done earlier in the half.
An early second half line break from Blake Lawson, and link up with Rivett, took Panthers 90 metres down the field and in prime position to extend the margin.
Panthers failed to make the most of that chance.
The same couldn't be said about their next trip down the Cowra end of the ground.
A Wright grubber kick was mishandled by the Magpies and Rivett was on the scene to bag his second try.
Several panthers errors and patchy moments of poor discipline allowed the Magpies to have plenty of time in the Bathurst half of the ground.
When Cowra failed to make the most of the possession they were punished by a match-sealing Jack Siejka try with five minutes left.
Panthers under 18s star Noah Griffiths put the icing on the cake with his try in the shadows of full-time.
BATHURST PANTHERS 30 (Josh Rivett 2, Brad Fearnley, Jack Siejka, Noah Griffiths tries; Willie Wright 3, Rivett 2 goals) def COWRA MAGPIES 0
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