The Dubbo Rhinos have booked their spot in the New Holland Cup major semi-final after a big win over Narromine Gorillas on Saturday.
At their beloved Apex Oval, the Rhinos were too good for Narromine, winning 52-24 in a high-scoring affair as Dubbo flyhalf Dale Smith crossed for four tries.
The bonus point win means the Rhinos are guaranteed to finish in second spot on the ladder, with a rematch against the Mudgee Wombats to take place next week.
Dubbo Rhinos centre Matt Neill said the Rhinos needed to win big and was pleased they could do just that.
"We came in having to get four tries and the win to secure second spot just to take away the chance of Parkes winning to take it away from us," he said.
"The game plan going in was to score four tries and win, we did that pretty convincingly.
"It wasn't perfect, we gave away way too many points, the key to beating Mudgee is defending, so it's stuff to work on.
"The attack really clicked today."
Narromine captain Dan Battishall knows his side was beaten by a strong side in what is the Gorillas' last game of the season.
"It was a bit of a bad way to end the season but Dubbo is a good outfit," he said.
"They are just really good in broken play with those big Fijian boys and they've got a lot of agile boys who counterattack well.
"They were just too good today."
Things got off to a perfect start for the Rhinos with Smith crossing in the fourth minute for his first try of the afternoon, with Api Lomani adding the extra two points.
But the Gorillas would hit back just over 10 minutes later through Braydon McManus as the prop burrowed his way over to make the score 7-5.
Aminiasi Rokaci was the next Rhino to score, with the winger finding himself in open space before grabbing a try of his own.
Shortly after Neill scored the Rhinos' third try of the half and with Kieren Hill converting the centre's try, it seemed Dubbo was firing on all cylinders.
Rokaci and Smith both crossed for their second tries of the match, and with Hill converting both the score blew out to 33-5.
Smith's dominance continued in the second half as the flyhalf strolled through a gap to score his third try with Jordon Davis getting in on the action soon after.
The number 8's try in the corner was followed by another Hill conversion as the Rhinos were well in control of the game leading 45-5.
But to Narromine's credit, they stuck at it with Jesse Griffiths scoring a try next to the posts, with Jake Styles slotting the conversion.
Late tries to Smith, Styles and Euan Truscott completed an entertaining game as the Rhinos booked their spot in the major semi-final.
After scoring a try of his own, Neill was still in awe of Smith's efforts during the match, especially after moving into flyhalf a few weeks ago.
"It was good to see one of your teammates get four tries, I could only dream of that," he said.
"He is making a strong case for that number 10 jersey, he's been killing it at fullback all year then we moved him to 10 and he is still killing it."
Having been around the Rhinos for several seasons now, Neill said it was pleasing to see where the club has got to, especially in the last few years.
"It's pretty good, I said a few weeks back a few of us guys now have played six or seven seasons with the club so we've seen us really low," he said.
"Having to play guys who weren't ready for first grade but to finally have those guys come of age and be quality (is great).
"We've got a few guys who are only 18 or 19 years old, so to have a crop of youngsters come through, a few old blokes and everything in between is phenomenal."
While his side won just a single game in 2022, Battishall knows some important steps were made to ensure the Gorillas improve next season.
"It's been a bit of a tough season with only the one win but we've been getting close in games all year," he said.
"Hopefully next year with a few more boys coming back and with the boys getting more experience we will be up there."
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