IT may not have been the slickest game of rugby, but when the final whistle was blown in the Blowes Clothing Cup third grade grand final on Saturday to confirm Bathurst Bulldogs as 22-13 victors over Orange Emus, it did not matter.
For the Bulldogs the fact they won, that they enacted revenge for last year's loss in the decider at hands of Emus and that they did it in front of a home crowd at Ashwood Park was what mattered to them.
Certainly the smile on the face of Bulldogs coach Michael Weekes showed the grand final win over Emus - the only other side which regularly played in third grade this season - meant plenty.
"It was so good, these Emus boys are always tough and have got a few old heads out there too.They got us last year, so it was good to get one back on them," Weekes said.
"I've been around a lot of these guys for 10 years or more, so to win with them was really good.
"The boys really worked hard on their scrums this week - thanks to Damo Grant - and they were really good. Best all year.
"I was confident we could do it, there were a few coach killers out there, but I knew the boys had it in them. It's just so good."
The first half was a scrappy affair with a penalty goal all either side could muster - Steve Locke putting Bulldogs ahead in the second minute before Nik Granger equalised in the 11th.
Bulldogs twice failed to find touch after being awarded a penalty and lost one of their attacking line-outs against the feed, while amongst the myriad of knock-ons came more than one from Emus after they had created an overlap.
But as scrappy as that first half was, it gave a preview of two factors which would prove critical in Bulldogs' success.
The hosts drove Emus back each time there was a scrum while Bulldogs flanker Jordan Bull - who was named man of the match - pilfered well at the breakdown.
It was a big drive from a scrum 10 minutes into the second half which saw Bulldogs awarded a penalty try.
Locke converted from in front to make it 10-3.
In a frenetic 10 minutes which followed Emus hit back via Phil Johnson after creating an overlap on the right wing, but Bulldogs responded with big scrums and successful pick and drives - Bull and Travis Gibson the scorers.
When Locke piloted through his second conversion of the match from near the left sideline, it was 22-8 to Bulldogs.
... you can't just keep defending for long periods and expect to hold them out. Dogs eventually broke us open there a few times.Emus skipper Morgan Grivas
But there was more drama to come.
Bulldogs five-eighth Dylan Sinclair was yellow carded with 6.21 left on the clock then, less than two minutes later, Moses Toso-Mai dived over for Emus.
But the conversion attempt missed, leaving Emus more than a converted try behind at 22-13.
That was how it stayed.
Emus skipper Morgan Grivas admitted the amount of work his had to do in defence - a significant portion of which came as the greens tried to prevent one of their own errors from being punished - took its toll.
"I guess we didn't have any possession early on which didn't give us the opportunity to get any flow or consistency in our game. We were defending for most of that first half and we absorbed the pressure there for a long time," he said.
"But you can't just keep defending for long periods and expect to hold them out. Dogs eventually broke us open there a few times.
"We just gave them too many easy metres up the middle there with some set pieces from scrum time.
"The boys, to their credit, gave it a crack, but time sort of got away from us. Our boys certainly showed plenty of fighting spirit."
- BATHURST BULLDOGS 22 (Jordan Bull, Travis Gibson, penalty try; Steve Locke penalty; Steve Locke 2 conversions) def ORANGE EMUS 13 (Phil Johnson, Moses Toso-Mai tries; Nik Granger penalty)
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