Twelve months after having their hearts broken by a final-minute Bathurst Bulldogs try Orange City earned their grand final redemption at Endeavour Oval on Saturday, the Lions holding on to down minor premiers Dubbo and claim the Blowes Clothing Cup colts title.
Not that it was easy, far from it.
There was shades of 2017 about Saturday’s decider, the Lions shooting to an 8-nil lead and building that to 18-5 with a try right after half-time, before they let Roos back into the contest through ill-discipline and errors.
So much so, with four minutes to go the Lions led by just a point at 25-24 and were down a man too, after Jack Parr was sent to the sin bin.
But the young Lions held on.
“It felt like last year for a little while there, there were times when it felt like it was slipping away but the boys showed a lot of character to get the job done, especially being a man down there at the end,” Orange City skipper Tom West said.
“Last year was absolutely devastating and then we came here and they did that job on us in the major semi-final, so we knew we had to be a lot better. Everyone was really up for it, I'm just stoked we’ve been able to get the job done.
“It’s not been an easy year for the club, so I’m really pleased we were able to get the job done and give everyone who’s supported us, there [was] plenty [at Endeavour Oval] something to celebrate.”
West was referring to the 32-14 shellacking Dubbo handed his side in the major semi-final a fortnight ago, Roos barely had any ball in that game but were still able to completely outclass the Lions.
West and his teammates flipped the script on the minor premiers on Saturday though.
They absolutely roared out of the blocks and dominated the opening stages, West opening the scoring with a 37-metre penalty goal in the sixth minute.
Ten minutes later Will Christopherson extended the Lions’ lead to eight with the first of his grand final double, and even though Roos scored next through Shaun Kopp, the Dubbo side was simply getting overrun.
The Lions had one disallowed after Ethan Bereyne was pinged for a double effort on the line, but just a minute later Orange City’s mullet-laden, NSW Country fullback Hayden Leopold crashed over with a stunning individual effort, after a pinched lineout.
West missed again and the Lions’ lead stayed at 13-5 until just after half-time when Nick Smith scored, latching onto a rebounded grubber from Jack Connors.
At 18-5 with about 20 to go, it was the Lions’ to lose, with everyone at Endeavour Oval knowing the star-studded Roos needed only the smallest sniff.
They got it too.
“We started giving away penalties that we just shouldn’t have,” West said.
“I’m not sure if we fell asleep or not, maybe we were trying a bit hard to put the game away. We gave Roos a chance, but fortunately we did enough to hang on.”
First Jordan Berryman scored to cut the gap to 18-10 and 10 minutes later Jack Jones dived over in virtually the same spot, Pat Berryman’s all but sideline conversion making it a one-point game.
Christopherson sliced through two phases after the kick-off, Orange City winning possession after a knock-on, and West’s conversion made it 25-17, but that lead never looked safe.
Dubbo turned down the opportunity for a penalty goal, earning another penalty from the collapsed maul, with a Lion lucky not to go to the bin after that one.
Parr did after the next penalty though, and Roos took advantage. Pat Berryman sent Alex Burke over then nailed the sideline kick to make it a one-point game again at 25-24.
West attempted a long-range penalty goal to make it a four-point margin, but that hit the post and then Roos put 12 phases together in their bid to break the Lions’ hearts.
It ended with a maul, and Orange City killing the ball to claim a thrilling win, which Dubbo coach Grant Berryman congratulated them on thoroughly.
“They out-enthused us, and managed to hang on at the end there, well done to them,” he said.
“It was an incredible game of rugby, went right down to the last minute and I’m really proud of my boys’ efforts and the way we were able to come back after falling behind early.
“Unfortunately for us we just couldn't quite get there, Orange City hung on by the skin of their teeth.”
It was Orange City’s first title win in colt since 2014 and was led by massive efforts from Nick Fisher, Connors, Leopold and Christopherson. Both Berrymans were good for Roos, as was Josh Jasprizza.
- ORANGE CITY LIONS 25 (Will Christopherson 2, Hayden Leopold, Nick Smith tries; Tom West conversion, penalty goal) def DUBBO KANGAROOS 24 (Shaun Kopp, Jordan Berryman, Jack Jones, Alex Burke tries; Pat Berryman 2 conversions)