The Nyngan Tigers are set for a top three finish in Group 11 after defeating competition heavyweights Wellington and Dubbo CYMS in successive weeks.
If a gutsy 28-24 win over Wellington a week prior didn't make people sit up and take notice, the Tigers sent the rest of the competition a message on Sunday where they scored a come-from-behind 22-16 win over CYMS.
The result was another massive shot of confidence for the Tigers and they're hot favourites to finish in third spot as they face the winless Narromine Jets in next weekend's final round.
Captain-coach Jeremy Smith was extremely proud of his side's performance on Sunday and he knows the Tigers are on track to play some of their best footy in the looming finals.
"That's all you want to do," Smith said.
"You play all year to get in the semis and then a grand final. We've been working all year to get to this point and I think we're in good stead."
A try for winger Ash Widders inside the final two minutes at Larkin Oval secured the win for Nyngan on Sunday, capping a comeback even more impressive than the one seen at Wellington a week prior.
Nyngan trailed 10-6 at the break against the Cowboys but they were down 16-6 on Sunday.
The Tigers again made mistakes and conceded penalties early, and CYMS showed why it's been top of the table all season by taking advantage and scoring through Jarryn Powyer, Ali Beale, and Jack Smith.
The second half turned into more of a slugfest and the Tigers soon gained the ascendency and piled the pressure on the Fishies.
CYMS' defence was resolute for much of the half but Cale Dunn broke through the line and then Smith and Widders crossed in the final 10 minutes to move the Tigers a point clear of both Macquarie and Parkes in what is a fantastic finals race.
Widders scored via a kick to his wing in the dying stages on Sunday, again showing his knack of finding the try-line and Smith said it was deserved for the hard-working flyer.
"He's been unreal for us," Smith said.
"The last month of football, he's really turned a corner. At training he's a positive fella and a leader and he's revving boys up and getting them going, and staying positive.
"It's showing on the field with his actions. He's taken his game to another level. He's taking tough hit ups out of our end and doing the right things."
Workhorse props Guy Thompson and Jacob Neill also earned plenty of praise but most pleasing for Smith, who's in his first role as captain-coach, was the way the players again reacted to his message after the poor start.
"Even the warm-up was a little different to normal," he said.
"Everyone was a bit quiet and I'm not sure if it was nerves or they just knew it was a big game we needed to turn up for but they came good in the second half.
"We had a chat about what we were doing wrong and we wanted to right those wrongs and the boys did well.
"That's the hardest thing, earning the boys' trust and getting it across to them and making them listen.
"I'm very fortunate to have a couple of leaders who lead and keep the boys up and keep them moving forward in the final stages. I think our match fitness has come through and we're in a pretty good spot at the moment."
The loss was just the second of season for CYMS, who are locked on 22 points at the top with Wellington but ahead on a better differential.
Slow starts remain an area of concern and Smith will look to correct that against Narromine.
The Tigers are likely to rest a couple of injured players for the trip to Cale Oval but Smith will still be placing a huge amount of importance on the match.
"To go out in back-to-back weeks and prove we can match it with them, that's a really big thing for us," Smith said of the top two.
"But at the same time, we can't go getting ahead of ourselves. If we can't continue to build into semis then really it means nothing.
"We can't think we're just going to go over to Narromine and win. It's their last game of the year and they'll really turn up so we need to switch on at training and roll into it. It's going to be a contest next weekend."
CYMS faces Macquarie in another massive derby next weekend while Wellington meets Parkes in an equally enticing fixture.
- NYNGAN TIGERS 22 (Ash Widders 2, Cale Dunn, Jeremy Smith tries; Smith 2, Farren Lamb goals) defeated DUBBO CYMS 16 (Ali Beale, Jarryn Powyer, Jack Smith tries; Brad Pickering 2 goals)
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