Bathurst Bulldogs coach Nathan Pearce refused to blame Brad Glasson for his side’s Blowes Clothing Cup season coming to an end after the scrumhalf missed a late penalty in Saturday’s preliminary final at Forbes.
The clash between the Platypi and Bulldogs at Grinsted Oval had everything.
There was passages of running rugby and there was times where it was phase after phase of tough, froward-driven play.
There was yellow cards, sledges, some push and shove and ultimately a result which wasn’t certain until the very final moments.
The Bulldogs led 8-0 early and 15-10 at half time but the lead swung back and forth in the second half as Glasson and Forbes’ Ned Brockmann traded penalties.
Brockmann put his side up by two with 11 minutes to go but the Forbes fullback was then sin-binned four minutes before full-time, handing Bulldogs a penalty within Glasson’s range.
But the young number nine, who’s boot had impressed all day, hooked his shot from just right of the uprights 25 metres out in the breezy conditions.
From there the Platypi hung on to win 20-18 and advance to a much-anticipated grand final rematch against Orange Emus.
“With that wind it was a tough shot. It was always a tough shot,” Pearce said of Glasson’s miss.
“We had actually debated whether or not to give him the pressure but he’s been great. He’s had a a real breakout year and is a genuine first grade footballer at 20.
“He’s been one of our standouts but we’ve had a team of standouts.”
Despite Pearce feeling it was one of his side’s best performances of the season, there was clear disappointment in the camp while the Forbes fans rejoiced after sealing a second straight grand final berth.
The Platypi weren’t at their best for much of the match but when the pressure was on there was no panic and eventually the patient approach paid off.
“We made it pretty hard for ourselves,” Forbes skipper Jack Hammond said after the gruelling encounter.
“It shouldn’t have been that hard but success does’t come easy.
“Now we’ve got one more week so we’ve got to regroup and then head to Orange.”
It wasn’t looking good for the hosts early when Bulldogs silenced a raucous home crowd by scoring through centre Harry Webber.
Brockmann missed an early penalty before Glasson nailed one to make it 8-0 but then poor discipline from Bathurst and a string of penalties resulted in flyhalf Scott Johnston being shown yellow.
Forbes capitalised with the extra man, scoring through Mahe Fangupo and Matt Coles to lead 10-8 but right before the break Bathurst scored against the run of play through winger Riley Hanrahan to ensure the visitors went into the sheds in front.
Seven minutes into the second stanza Forbes retook the lead when hooker Jarrod Hall muscled across before the battle between Brockmann and Glasson took over the game.
A Glasson penalty put his side up 18-17 but then Brockmann got Forbes’ nose in front late in the piece.
The fullback went from hero to zero following his tackle off the ball after Bathurst had broken away after an intercept.
But Glasson couldn’t make the most of the golden chance, and Hammond said it satisfying to be through to the decider after being the second-best side for the bulk of the season.
Much like last year, and this year’s major semi, it’s Orange Emus against Forbes at Endeavour Oval and the Platypi and a huge load of support will be making the trip.
“The mood is pretty good. All we wanted to do was think about this week, not the next one, because if we didn’t win this we wouldn’t be there and now we’ve got there we need to knuckle down and look at what went wrong last time and build from that,” Hammond said.
“We’re a small community against these bigger towns and we’re really giving it to them so the more support the better.”