DAVE Conyers is a man who has coached rugby across the globe and worked with enough emerging talents to pack a stadium, but on Saturday afternoon at Cale Oval he enjoyed the highlight of his mentoring career.
A CSU side that had never won a New Holland Cup game at Cale Oval upset a Narromine outfit which had suffered just one loss in the second tier Central West Rugby Union competition since its inception.
That 30-29 upset came in the grand final.
That upset came after CSU had trailed by 19 points at half-time.
That upset 15 years after Conyers had co-coached the students' first XV to their last premiership.
"You just couldn't have scripted it any better if you were trying to write a rugby story about passion and a come from behind result," Conyers said.
"Narromine had been opening us up through the forwards all year, but we never lost one of our set pieces against them on Saturday.
"We lost 20 scrums in the last two games against them, we lost all our line-outs against them - the whole thing just fell apart.
"But to come back in the space of two weeks and not lose a scrum or line out. All we ever wanted was 50 percent of the ball, if we got that we knew we could beat them, and gee we got that."
It's probably the best feeling I've ever had winning something, especially the way we did it.Dave Conyers
Having lost three times to Narromine in 2019 prior to the grand final and twice at Cale Oval by hefty margins - 50-10 and 57-10 - CSU were certainly underdogs for the New Holland Cup.
Even staunch CSU supporters admitted that the Gorillas would get the job done, but Conyers and his playing group felt differently.
"There weren't too many people that thought we could win up there, even the old boys were saying it's been a great season to date well done with the thought that we weren't going to win," Conyers said.
"But I just had a really good feeling from the time we got on the bus on Friday afternoon to go to Dubbo. The boys just seemed cool, calm and collected, just a little air of excitement amongst them, but they didn't show it."
After driving the bus to Dubbo on Friday, on Saturday prior to kick-off Conyers made another decision which was to prove a crucial part of CSU's preparation.
Instead of warming up at Cale Oval, the students opted to spent their time prior to kick-off near the Macquarie River.
"Every time we go to Narromine there's nowhere to warm up, you're intimidate by second grade winning the grand final, intimidated by them warming up and the crowd," Conyers said.
"We went down to the river for a couple of hours beforehand, laid around the river and had all our pre-game speeches, got dressed, warmed up, got on the bus and then ran straight onto the field.
"So we put doubt into their mind from the first second of the game just by doing that."
After the opening whistle was blown it was not the ideal start for the students as the Gorillas scored two early tries via Jake Brennan.
But that did not overly concern Conyers.
Even when CSU walked off the field at half-time trailing 24-5 then found itself behind 29-10 early in the second stanza, the coach maintained belief his men could get the job done.
It's probably the best feeling I've ever had winning something, especially the way we did it. Like our guys just turned up. Every single player put in more than I ever expected from them.Dave Conyers
"We were hammering their line and they scored two breakaway tries early, their winger is like Regan [Hughes], he's scored something like 25 tries this year. He's super fast and if he gets into a spot he's going to run around everybody," Conyers said.
"But we camped on their line for about 15 minutes hammering their line. Narromine haven't had to tackle seriously for long periods of time like that, they've never had that pressure put on them.
"To their credit they tackled rally well, but they used up a lot of energy. We just kept mustering 10-12 phase possessions against them.
"We had six shots at goal in front and everyone was going ballistic we weren't taking the shots at goal.
"But you take a shot at goal, you get three and you end up back down your end and they get off the hook a bit really.
"So while we were still hammering that line, it turned out to be a great tactic because it took all the fuel out of them."
As the second half unfolded - as Conyers had predicted - that effort took a toll on Narromine. Cracks began to appear in the staunch Gorillas' defence.
Harry Hunt and Jack Keppel both scored and when Keppel potted a field goal, CSU was within two of the lead.
Then in the 77th minute, a penalty handed CSU the chance to snatch the lead.
Keppel stepped up to take the shot from near the sideline as his team-mates, Conyers and a large contingent of CSU supporters watched on nervously.
Moments later as Keppel's kick found the mark, they erupted into an outpouring of emotion.
"The last 20 minutes, once we scored that try and kicked that field goal, you could just see their heads drop," Conyers said.
"Then to kick one from the sidelined on full-time, I almost died, you couldn't write a story like it.
"He hadn't been kicking real well, the last two weeks he'd kicked terrible. Anyway he kicked it and it was headed a foot, two feet outside the right upright, it just dead set looked like it was going to miss.
"And then it just went on the inside of the post - God almighty.
"We had all the girls there and about 60 people who came on the supporters' bus, it just erupted."
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There were tears and hugs, prayers and cheers for CSU. It is a moment that will long live in Conyers' memory.
"I don't think I would have ever seen a team so shell-shocked," Conyers said.
"They weren't expecting anything like that. The win by one point, that was just the ultimate humiliation for them, it really was.
"It's probably the best feeling I've ever had winning something, especially the way we did it. Like our guys just turned up. Every single player put in more than I ever expected from them."
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