A remarkable defensive effort from Bathurst Bulldogs in the dying stages of the game inspired the side to a second consecutive undefeated Blowes Clothing Cup colts title, at the expense of a willing CSU Bathurst side.
Despite trailing 9-0 at one stage Bulldogs fought back to hold a 15-9 lead late in the second half, before being forced to defend their own line for the final 15 minutes in a bid to claim the win.
They were down to 13 men for a substantial hunk of that too after Josh Carter and Adam Plummer both saw yellow cards, but the minor premiers held, turning CSU away time and again to claim a six-point win.
It was the fourth time in the last six years Bulldogs have beaten CSU in a colts grand final.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” Bulldogs coach Jordan Bull enthused just after full-time.
“It was a pretty incredible effort, a gutsy effort, being down to 13 and managing to hold for so long.
“The boys did an amazing job. It’s the second straight year we’ve gone undefeated so that’s something big too, that kind of win really caps off a pretty incredible season.”
CSU, having come from fifth to be present on grand final day, were the far better side in the opening stages of the game and the 9-3 lead they held after 28 minutes proved as much.
Dan Donato kicked penalty goals in the 10th, 16th and 27th minutes while Bulldogs’ Steen Hansen nailed one of his own to make it 9-3 on the brink of half-time.
Bulldogs scored a crucial, unconverted try on the half-time break though – through Angus Doulman – to go into the sheds just one point behind, and took the momentum from it into the second half.
They held possession for the opening six minutes of the half, pressuring CSU and forcing penalties. It told as Pat Ankjear scored in the 37th minute and Hansen converted to give Bulldogs the lead for the first time at 15-9.
The score stayed there until full-time, not for lack of trying on CSU’s part though.
They camped in Bulldogs’ end for the last portion of the second period, winning a number of penalties and having countless chances to go over.
Donato looked to have scored out wide too but it was disallowed in the final stages, referee Matt McGuire ruled him to have been held up.
Carter saw yellow in seven out from full-time and then Plummer did too in the second last minute, but Bulldogs held – they forced a CSU knock on in the students’ final crack.
“You’ve got to give it to them, with that kind of performance they deserved the win,” CSU coach Rob Danelon said.
“I’m very proud of my boys, to come from fifth and really give them a show is a great effort. We were there and had the chance, we just couldn’t quite get it right in the final few minutes.
“It was a war of attrition, which Bulldogs won.
“I can’t fault the effort, the boys gave it everything and almost got there.”