They've been called the competition favourites, and on Sunday the Forbes Magpies showed why in every quarter of a gruelling, fiery game against the Orange Hawks.
While Orange opened the scoring by way of stand-out Ben Blimka only a few moments in, it wasn't long before the Magpies rallied and sent Matthew Noakes crashing over, with the following conversion from his own boot sending the Magpies in front.
Jack Hartwig smashed through the Hawks line to add on another, with Noakes again adding the extras.
Hartwig was again a standout for the Forbes' side of the field in Sunday's clash, forcing metres everywhere he could and providing the Magpies stone wall with plenty of encouragement as they held the Hawks off.
"The whole team really dug deep, for a minute we were a bit behind, we just kind of came together behind the try-line at one point said 'alright, boys, do we really want this?' and they really reacted," Hartwig said of his side's effort.
"We leaked a few more points than what we'd like to, but we really turned up in that back half and I couldn't be prouder of them for digging deep, everyone put in their two bobs worth."
Darcy Leadbitter opened the scoring in the second quarter to keep Forbes well in front 16 - 4, but the Hawks were able to shift enough momentum and keep the ball moving long enough to send Marlin Pollack over, with Ben Norris clawing back two more points with a successful conversion.
A stray high tackle saw Sean Towney take a walk for Forbes, giving the Hawks enough wiggle room to send Mitch Watts crashing over, only to be repaid in kind by Forbes' speedster Harry Scott, another conversion from Noakes gave Forbes some breathing room on the scoreboard.
Isaac Nash crossed to give Forbes a 26 - 14 lead, and while Mason Pollack was able to turn the pressure around enough for a moment to open up another six points for the visitors, it was as close as they'd come to matching Forbes on points, remaining on twenty while Forbes powered their way to 32 with Darcy Leadbitter crossing for his second try of the day.
Hawks coach Jake Blimka was dismayed to lose out, but said he was proud of the fight his side put up against a side many consider the favourites of the entire tournament.
"I'm definitely proud of them, Forbes are the top team and they haven't lost all season, so to nearly knock them off is good, we just had a few little lapses where it counted and those can really cost you," Blimka said.
Despite a hefty injury list taking a toll throughout the season, Blimka said his side came in fit and ready for the clash and singled out his younger brother Ben for stepping up and doing a lot of work.
"It was good, he got over for that first one, which was really good, but those lapses added up and they cost us."
Forbes Magpies 32 (Darcy Leadbitter 2, Matthew Noakes, Jack Hartwig, Isaac Nash, Harry Scott tries; Matthew Noakes 4 goals) defeated Orange Hawks 20 (Marlin Pollack, Mason Pollack, Ben Blimka, Mitch Watts tries; Ben Norris 2 goals).
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