Orange City has broken a 26-year Blowes Clothing Cup premiership drought with a 25-3 victory over Bathurst Bulldogs at Endeavour Oval.
The club has won six titles across all senior men’s grades since 2012 – including two top grade crowns undefeated in 2012 and 2013 – but, until Saturday’s gritty triumph on the big stage against the Bulldogs, 1991 was the last time the Lions drank from the third grade premiership cup.
An individual points haul of 15 from inside centre Sione Tongia highlights the victory, but it was the work of a stack of Lions stalwarts that carried Orange City to victory.
“It’s pretty special,” injured captain-coach Chris Barrett said, right before Mitch Pearce and Joey Barrett poured the side’s water cooler all over him.
“That was one of the reasons why I wanted to captain-coach third grade,” he continued.
“All of the success we’ve had in the last seven years, it baffled me we hadn’t won a third grade premiership since 1991.
“The last couple of years playing first grade, I wasn’t enjoying it as much. A lot of the older guys I’m better mates retired so I thought I’d take on this third grade job and twist of few boys’ arms to come back and have one last season before we hang the boots up.
“It was more about enjoying it and having a bit of fun. It’s great.”
Ask Barrett, and the first 30 minutes was anything but a bit of fun though.
Orange City was kicked to a 3-0 lead thanks to a penalty goal to Tongia early in the piece.
But the Bulldogs hit back through the right boot of Brent Dennis soon after, locking the score up at 3-all.
From there, the remaining 18 minutes of the first half was an absolute arm-wrestle.
“I was pretty bloody nervous for the majority of it,” Barrett said.
“I just knew we had to stick to what we’d been doing all year.
“To Bathurst’s credit, they were unreal. Came out all guns blazing and gave us one hell of a game.”
The second half then belonged to the eventual premiers.
Tongia’s tries were both the result of mid-field breaks on the half-way line, while former Central West Rugby Union player of the year Wayne Miller dove over from clase range to score and Feleti Wolfgramm found himself on the score sheet after a dart next to the ruck.
Bulldogs skipper Michael Anderson couldn’t fault the effort of his side, giving the Bathurst third grade boys a passionate address at full-time.
He said the Dogs’ opening half went exactly to script, but maintaining that intensity in the final 30 minutes proved tough to do.
“There’s a lot of old legends in that side, they could still make the cut in any grade,” Anderson said of the Lions’ side.
“I knew we were going to be up against it. I was very happy with our first 30 minutes, a couple of tries against the run of play where they broke us up, and that was the difference.
“They had a big bench, very, very good players.
“I’m really happy with our team.”
- ORANGE CITY 25 (Sione Tongia 2, Feleti Wolfgramm, Wayne Miller tries; Sione Tongia pen goal, conv) def BATHURST BULLDOGS 3 (Brent Dennis pen goal)