Dubbo Kangaroos co-coach Ben Mastronadi felt he had the side to win this season Blowes Clothing Cup competition but ultimately an injury crisis resulted in the team falling at the preliminary final.
The Roos were defeated 27-26 by Orange City in Saturday’s do-or-die match at Forbes’ Grinsted Oval but the young Roos did well to get that close with no bench at all by the end of the match.
The Roos lost Kyle Gibson, Tom Saul, Charlie Lawry and Hamish Smith and more to injury and with so much talent on the sideline it proved too much to stop a talented Orange City outfit.
“I’m very proud. To come down here with 16 players and for them (City) to have a full bench, it was hard,” Mastronadi said.
“There’s an element of disappointment because we had the side to win the competition. That’s the hardest thing because we didn’t have a full strength Roos.
“I thought we had the team to win the competition but Orange had the depth today and had fresh legs on the bench and they used that well.”
City also didn’t have it easy on Saturday, missing stars Hunter Ward and Yool Yool due to representative commitments, but the young Lions still got it done to set up a grand final clash with the Bathurst Bulldogs.
City was electric in attack at times, hammering the Roos line for long periods with captain Liam Hanley impressive while Tom West also provided a steady influence from scrumhalf.
City always appeared the better side and the more likely, and a Roos try right on full time made the game much closer than it had actually been for the bulk of the 60 minutes.
“We got beat last week and came back because there was plenty to play for,” City coach Jake Johnston said.
“We had players out but so did they and it was just a good game of rugby, which is good to see, and we’re lucky enough to be going to the grand final.”
The win was set up early, as City raced out of the blocks and led 10-0 early after tries to Alex McNiven and a hulking Ethan Bereyne.
But the Roos eventually got into the game on got on the board courtesy of a hard-running Angus O’Connor, who was a standout for the Dubbo side along with fullback Danny Ryan.
Hanley broke through the defensive line and scored right on half time to give his side 1 17-7 lead at the break but the Roos cut that lead to five when Ryan sliced through and raced 50m to score early in the second stanza.
City’s Will Cranney and Roos halfback Pat Berryman traded tries to leave City up 24-19 and get the Dubbo fans in attendance hopeful of a late rally but a late City penalty took the match out of reach.
O’Connor never gave in, despite the clock, and charged into the defence again right on full time to seal a deserved double.
“We haven’t been starting the best and it hurt us last week (in major semi loss to Bulldogs) so we came out firing today,” Johnston said,
“But Dubbo fired back and it was a good game.”