With just two sides legitimately playing in this year's Blowes Clothing Cup third grade competition Bathurst Bulldogs and Orange Emus were already guaranteed a grand final berth, but that didn't stop the two outfits going hammer-and-tongs at each other in Saturday's major semi-final.
Bragging rights, momentum and potentially a psychological edge were still on the line at Anne Ashwood Park and Bulldogs claimed them, winning 13-10 to score a fourth consecutive win over the greens this year.
Emus threw everything at their Bathurst rivals - who they bested in last year's grand final - as they tried to produce an upset a fortnight from this year's decider, and when Phil Johnson burst through to score with 10 minutes remaining it looked possible.
That cut the gap to three and after Emus cult hero Matt Clark's conversion attempt missed the greens came again, but Bulldogs held on, Cameron Sinclair's pair of penalty goals ultimately proving a big difference for the Bathurst side.
"Emus had a few experienced heads come on and just settled things down, brought a bit of composure, we sort of got away from what we aimed to do," Bulldogs captain Dane Fitzpatrick said.
"We were pushing passes, gave away a few silly penalties and dropped ball, but we'll be better for the run.
"It's a bit disappointing that there are only two teams in the comp, but that's how it goes."
Cowra did muster enough numbers to field a side on the odd occasion in 2019 but indicated they would not take part in the finals series, leaving the Bathurst and Orange rivals to fight it out for glory.
Bulldogs opened scoring after four minutes when an angled run saw Ben Hagney barge his way over, winning a penalty inside Emus' half not long after, which Sinclair guided through to extend the lead to 10.
He missed two more attempts in the opening half before Nik Granger scored for to push Emus within a converted try, but Sinclair's successful shot eight minutes into the second half was enough to seal Bulldogs' win despite Johnson's last-ditch effort.
There will be no third grade preliminary final this weekend, with both sides enjoying a week off before the grand final.
WANT MORE ORANGE NEWS AND SPORT?
- Receive our free newsletters delivered to your inbox, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up below ...