Another Herculean grand final effort from monumental prop Brent Seager lifted Bathurst Panthers to their second consecutive Group 10 premier league title on Sunday, his effort paving the way for the men in black's 9-8, extra-time victory over Mudgee.
A Doug Hewitt field goal in the 82nd minute ultimately secured the win and while all of the Panthers outfit fought tooth-and-nail, Seager's performance was a class above as he became the first player to win back-to-back Dave Scott Medals.
Seager played all 90 minutes of the epic grand final in the front-row to back his gutsy, man-of-the-match showing in last year's win over Cowra, leading his side as they claimed victory in the first decider to go into extra-time since Panthers' win over Lithgow in 2006.
You couldn't script it any better. I'm glad we're on the winning side of it.Bathurst Panthers captain-coach Doug Hewitt
After falling 8-2 behind a converted Jack Siejka try in the 70th minute proved enough to send the clash to extra-time, although Panthers had several chances to win it in regular time too.
First Willie Wright missed a field goal attempt and his whopping, 48-metre shot at a penalty goal in the dying stages sailed wide too, before Blake Seager went close in the corner in the final minute but was bundled into touch.
Hewitt, out on his feet as well, defied exhaustion to nail his clutch shot in the 82nd minute and although the two sides fought tooth-and-nail for another eight minutes, it proved decisive.
With no golden point until after the initial, 10-minute period of overtime Hewitt and his Panthers were forced to hold the desperate Dragons out and they managed to do just that to become the first back-to-back premiers since Orange CYMS in 2010 and 2011.
Hewitt actually hit the upright with a second field goal attempt during extra time as well before Mudgee captain-coach Jack Littlejohn had a shot of his own on full-time, one that would've sent the clash to golden point had it landed.
But it didn't, and the full-time whistle sparked enormous celebrations from the Bathurst Panthers' faithful.
"You couldn't script it any better. I'm glad we're on the winning side of it," Hewitt, absolutely out on his feet after full-time, said.
"I have practice field goal shots every now and then at training but you never think it's going to come to that."
Naturally Mudgee skipper Jack Littlejohn cut a dejected figure after the game, disappointed his side wasn't able to capatalise on their six-point lead in the back end of the encounter.
"I'm disappointed, I thought we had it. Our defence was so good all game. I can't believe we let it slip like that," he said.
"We lost it ourselves in that extra time and with that one try underneath the posts. It's hard because we dug deep all game. Everyone expected us to come here and get a flogging."
It wasn't until the 18th minute that Wright opened the scoring with a penalty goal, and neither side could build momentum as they continued to shoot themselves in the foot through handling errors or discipline issues.
Finally Mudgee posted the first try of the day though, the Dragons' crowd coming to life in the 38th minute as hooker Ben Thompson found space, with Nathan Orr reaping the reward out wide to go ahead 4-2.
"They wanted it more than we did in the first half. We had to go out there and make things happen, and it kept coming down to our defence," Hewitt said.
Panthers looked to their left wing for a response eight minutes into the new half but Louis Murphy was denied on the try line by desperate Dragons defence.
Another Orr fend gave the Dragons centre a chance to score in the 57th minute but a strong tackle from Josh Rivett put him into touch.
However, there was no defence that was going to deny Jack Beasley five minutes later.
The Dragons impact player spun off several defenders and reached out to score first points in the new half. His missed conversion left the score at 8-2.
Finally, after 67 minutes, the hosts found their opening points of the match when Siejka hit a short line and crashed over under the sticks, Wright's conversion locking it up and ultimately sending the decider to extra time.
- BATHURST PANTHERS 9 (Jack Siejka try; Willie Wright goal; Wright penalty goal; Doug Hewitt field goal) def MUDGEE DRAGONS 8 (Nathan Orr, Jack Beasley tries)
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