CSU Bathurst centre Jack Keppel produced one of the great all-time grand final performances at Narromine's Cale Oval on Saturday afternoon, orchestrating one of the most incredible decider comebacks in recent memory and inspiring the Mitchell Men's New Holland Agriculture Cup premiership.
With his side looking to break a 15-year title drought Keppel scored a double, nailed two conversions before slotting a clutch drop goal and a match-winning penalty goal too, the latter securing the students' unbelievable, 30-29 boilover.
The drop goal as the clash entered its dying stages and slashed the margin to two, the penalty goal then pushing the Mitchell Men ahead by one with just three minutes left on the clock.
Well, you never say never do you.CSU coach Dave Conyers
The latter sent the students and the fabled Mitchell Army into raptures, the celebrations lifting even further after the full-time whistle blew of course, and also completed CSU's unbelievable comeback after they trailed 24-5 at half-time, and then 29-10 earlier in the second period.
"Well, you never say never do you," CSU's Dave Conyers said, still stunned his side had done what looked impossible and beaten the minor premiers on their home turf.
"The last two times we've been here we've had a hundred points put on us (combined) and we've just dropped our heads, but 29-10 it was at one stage and our boys could still see light at the end of the tunnel, and once we scored that try I thought here we go."
Incredibly Keppel wasn't named man-of-the-match, that honour went to Narromine stalwart and all-around good bloke Craig Campbell, who was typically superb in the beaten side.
Keppel's centre partner Regan Hughes was also named player-of-the-year after the decider win, giving the students another reason to celebrate.
The victory actually completed a full circle for Conyers too, who was coaching the students the last time they won a premiership as well. That came way back in 2004, when CSU knocked off Orange Emus at Carrington Park in the Blowes Clothing Cup.
CSU had been the only side to beat Narromine all season but that win came at University Oval and the last time they'd ventured to Cale Oval they were hammered 50-10, and after the opening minutes on Saturday it looked like that might happen again.
Jakob Brennan scored a quick-fire double to give the hosts an early 12-nil lead, shocking the students with an early blitz.
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CSU did rally and cut the gap to a converted try through Hughes, but Narromine fired right back with two five-pointers in the shadows of half-time to push to a 24-5 lead and place one hand on the cup.
Then Keppel went to work.
Rousing his troops he scored the first try after half-time and even though Brennan completed his hat-trick immediately Keppel scored his second not long after Harry Hunt crossed for the students, cutting the gap to five at 29-24.
In a bold, gutsy move Keppel cracked a drop goal to move his side within a penalty kick and then slotted that opportunity when it came in the 77th minute.
Naturally the Gorillas were shattered after the defeat but captain Tim Allworth was typically diplomatic, congratulating the students and labelling the decider a "great game of bush footy".
"What a game," he said in his post-game speech.
"To be leading 24-5 at half time ... it's a commendable effort for [CSU] in the last 40 minutes to put us under some pressure.
"We couldn't control possession and that's what was the downfall for us in the last 40 minutes."
- CSU BATHURST 30 (Jack Keppel 2, Harry Hunt, Regan Hughes tries; Keppel 2 conversions; Keppel penalty goal; Keppel drop goal) def NARROMINE GORILLAS 29 (Jakob Brennan 3, David Weir, Mitch Rixon tries; Doug Potter 2 conversions)
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