CSU Blue continued their assault on the Centennial Coal Cup Rugby League competition, while a shattered Lithgow Bears were left wondering just what might have been on Saturday.
The Bears went into the semi final as logical favourites, having beaten the Mungoes Blue team on both previous occasions during the year.
A try in the final minute to prop Brendan Bartlett, however, delivered the CSU side a memorable win and put an end to the Bears’ season.
The loss was a hard pill for the hosts to swallow after they had fought their way back from being down 22-10 at the break to hit the front 26-24 with eight minutes remaining.
Their lead came when Tony Northey crashed over for what looked like the winning try.
But it was not to be, even after the Bears began the final two minutes of the game in possession.
A Bears’ pass – that was never on – deep in their own territory, went to ground with CSU Blue pouncing on it.
Given a sniff of a win, the Blues’ forwards worked the ball 30 metres up field, with Bartlett crashing over under the posts and Matt Trainor’s conversion giving their side a 30-26 victory.
“We had been in front with 15 or so to go, but Lithgow snuck in with a couple of quick tries and they were up and on top,” CSU co-president Todd Wheeler said of the thrilling conclusion.
“Our forwards really stuck it to them and the majority of our tries came through the middle. We went into the game knowing that we’d have to battle to match their size, but we did it.
“Our defence was awesome, and we kept our heads when it mattered, which isn’t something we’ve always done this season.”
Both sides scored five tries apiece, but the discipline of the Bears let them down.
They were heavily penalised, giving CSU Blue easy metres.
Many of the penalties were warranted, but many had both sides scratching their heads, with the refereeing and linesmen frustrating both the players and the crowd from both camps.
The Bears got away to a good start, scoring the first two tries as Blake Collins and Jake Gillespie crossed, but the Mungoes hit back through Tom Handley, Jarred Thack and Sam Argue who all crossed the stripe.
Good kicking from Trainor gave them a 22-12 lead at the break.
The Bears’ fightback started when winger Ryan Bunting pulled down a Jarrod Miller bomb and Miller’s conversion cut the Blues’ lead back to 22-16.
The Bears were penalised and then marched 10 metres after some dissent, giving Trainor an easy kick in front to push the Blues’ lead to 24-16.
With 14 minutes left, the Bears were getting on top and after some big runs by the forwards, the ball was swung out to winger Luke Amos who dived over in the corner to make the score 24-20.
The momentum was all with the Bears, with Tony Northey causing all sorts of trouble with his damaging runs up the middle.
Northey was rewarded for his efforts when he smashed his way over the try line carrying a number of defenders with him to score next to the posts.
Miller converted and the game looked to belong to the Bears who led 26-24 with only minutes left on the clock.
It was then that Bartlett scored the winning try to end the Bears’ season.
Best for the Blues were Tyler Lawson, Mitchell Daley and Tom Handley, with good support coming from Bartlett and Trainor.
The result now sets up CSU Blue for a crack at Blackheath this Saturday, with the winner to face CSU Yellow in the decider.
“I think the same sort of effort will go very close to beating them,” Wheeler said.
“We’ve lost to them twice, but I think we’ve improved since then and we are a big chance to get past them. It would be awesome to have both sides in the grand final.”
CSU BLUE 30 defeated LITHGOW BEARS 26