BATHURST Panthers will go into next weekends qualifying semi-final with pep in their step thanks to a win away against the Oberon Tigers.
The Orange Hawks' win over cross-city rivals CYMS might have denied Panthers the minor premiership but a physical 28-10 victory over the Tigers gives the Bathurst men an ideal lead up to the finals.
Panthers took just a 6-4 lead into half-time but two early tries set the tone for the second half of football they would play out at the Oberon Sports Ground.
Louis Murphy scored a double in the space of 10 minutes for the Panthers.
Panthers captain-coach Doug Hewitt said the team's hustle in defence was, as has been the case in recent weeks, top notch.
"The first half probably wasn't our best half and we lacked that bit of attitude we needed. Oberon came out ready to play and I think that caught us off guard a bit," he said.
"In the second half we had a chat about it and our attitude was 10 times better. It just showed during that on-line defence, which is what we've been working on.
"We showed some good glimpses in attack but it's that defence which I'm most proud of."
Oberon came out with plenty of early intent in their final game of the season.
Hooker Lochie Gilmore came within inches of scoring when his fifth tackle dive across from dummy half was denied by the Panthers defence.
On the Tigers' next trip close to the Panthers line they were stopped short thanks to a forward pass.
Panthers worked their way into the game after the opening sets and Mackenzie Atkins came close to scoring on the right wing on several occasions.
Tigers thought they had got the opening points in the 27th minute but, after lengthy deliberation from the referees, were penalised for a shepherd.
The visitors rubbed salt in the wound by taking the ball up the other end and scoring a try in the corner through Atkins, converted by Willie Wright.
Tigers brought the score back to 6-4 at the break when captain-coach Josh Starling crashed over from short distance.
Panthers threatened to run away with things early in the new half thanks to Josh Small and Blake Seager tries but Ty-Lee Simmonds' four-pointer brought it back to 14-10.
Joy was short lived for the hosts when Kevin Murray and Murphy both scored.
Tigers failed to score off the back of two Panthers errors and Murphy punished them with a match-sealing try inside the final 10 minutes.
"We were feeling confident there in that first half but we were lacking that bit of polish in defence," Oberon captain-coach Josh Starling said.
"We let them get a couple of quick tries after the half and it's too hard to come back from that against a team like them."
Panthers are set to face the Mudgee Dragons at Carrington Park in the qualifying semi-final while Lithgow Workies host Cowra Magpies in a sudden death game.
Hawks will play the winner of the Panthers-Dragons game for the first grand final spot.
- BATHURST PANTHERS 28 (Louis Murphy 2, Mackenzie Atkins, Josh Small, Kevin Murray tries; Wright 2 goals) def OBERON TIGERS 10 (Josh Starling, Ty-Lee Simmonds tries; Matt Ranse goal)
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