A Mick Sullivan field goal from 20 metres out with just three minutes left on the clock sealed Orange CYMS’ fifth Group 10 premier league title in the last eight years, also completing one of the greatest grand final comebacks in competition’s history.
It was a game CYMS had absolutely no right to win considering the valiant Oberon Tigers led from the second minute until the 80th at Wade Park.
Oberon led 18-8 at half-time and then 22-8 with just 20 minutes remaining and at that stage, as they had for much of the game, the hosts looked dead in the water.
As Sullivan said, the Tigers had completely “dominated” every facet and the game and looked all but certain to seal their first Group 10 title since 1975.
Then, inexplicably, the tide turned.
The Tigers faded in the last 20 minutes, while CYMS shifted up a gear. Or two, or three for that matter.
The hosts ran in three tries in that period – Satterthwaite grabbing two and Robbie Mortimer one – to lock it up at 22-22, and then CYMS’ captain-coach stood up when it counted, nailing his field goal attempt to take a one-point lead and spark raucous celebrations from the CYMS faithful.
“We actually did a bit of practice on field goals the other night,” a jubilant Sullivan laughed.
“If it was long-range it was probably Joey Duffy or Ben McAlpine, but close-range I’d back myself. Mate, I didn’t want to let the group down, not (after 2016’s loss).
“What a sensational effort, we were under the pump the whole game, it’s just grit.
“That’s five since I’ve been here, but this one’s by far the best. It’s just great for the club.”
Sullivan said his side “didn’t have the right to be that close to them” after going into the sheds trailing by just 10.
He’s not wrong either. On the back of Oberon captain-coach Luke Branighan’s stunning kicking game Oberon shot to a 10-0 lead in just six minutes, extending that lead to 14 points in the 15th minute.
At that stage CYMS hadn’t seen the Tigers’ half of the field and didn’t look likely to, until they scored against the run of play.
The two sides traded tries after that, to give the Tigers an 18-8 lead at the break.
“Oberon was playing on emotion, they’d had their best run leading in and we didn’t have the right to be that close to them, we could’ve been [down by even more],” Sullivan said.
“We just had to stick in there, we were in it. I said we needed to score first (after half-time), and we didn’t, but we stuck in there, we knew it would turn. Oberon had some tired boys in the middle after the effort they’d put in, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
As you’d expect, Branighan – who was one of the best on ground – was devastated after the game.
With a one-point margin, he immediately pointed to the Tigers’ goal-kicking woes as a factor. He kicked one conversion from four attempts, while Anton Wereta missed his only shot.
“It is devastating, it was a big effort but to be fair goal-kicking’s come back to haunt us and it was a bit of a problem through the season,” he said.
“I’m pretty shattered at the moment but … I’m proud of my guys and we’re building something special at that club, we’re just not good enough at the moment.
“You have to give credit to CYMS, not many sides can come back from 22-8 down, so congratulations to them.
“We probably shouldn’t have been beaten from there, but I’m pretty honest with myself we had a couple of chances late and I’ve missed a couple of kicks, so I’ve probably cost us in the end.”
CYMS started awfully, Oberon’s match-starting kick-off going dead after it was allowed to bounce.
The Tigers took advantage of the early possession and territory, running in two tries in the space of five minutes to shoot to a 10-0 lead.
First, Tui Oloapu dived on a Branighan grubber before the Tigers skipper sent play down the short side and Tyler Hughes dived over.
Branighan kicked the first, the first-up blitz sparking deafening noise from the thousands of Oberon fans at Wade Park.
The early onslaught didn’t stop there either. After back-to-back penalties, Branighan sliced through to score his own four-pointer.
He kicked a 40-20 three minutes later and then Anton Wereta forced a drop-out, but that restart was knocked on.
CYMS centre Joe Lasagavibau busted the line two tackles after the scrum, linking with Tom Satterthwaite who sprinted 60 metres to open the hosts’ account completely against the run of play.
McAlpine missed his chance to add the extras, cutting the deficit to 10 at 14-4, with 28 minutes gone.
It didn’t stay there for long, Oberon hooker Luke Carpenter exposing some soft marker defence to find space and then the line.
Again, Branighan missed.
CYMS scored a desperately-needed try on the stroke of half-time, Chris Bamford going straight over Oberon’s defensive line and finding Hill, who went 40 to cross.
McAlpine missed again, but the try cut Oberon’s lead to 18-8 at the break.
The Tigers drew first blood in the second half, Trent Rose nudging a beautiful grubber behind the line which Jackson Brien dived on.
Wereta took the kicking duties from Branighan, and missed.
Semisi Katoa looked to have scored down the left edge in the 53rd minute but it was disallowed for obstruction, incredibly it was the second four-pointer the hulking winger had taken away.
He crossed in the 31st minute as well, but that was disallowed too.
After the second, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it just wasn’t CYMS’ day.
A decisive moment came when Branighan bombed in the 58th minute, Satterthwaite took it in goal and earned his side a seven-tackle set.
They worked into Oberon’s red-zone, where the Tigers spilled the kick.
Lasagavibau weaved his way into space before handing Satterthwaite his second of the day. McAlpine missed – he had his own issues with the boot, kicking one from five – leaving the game in the balance at 22-12.
Lasagavibau forced a drop-out from CYMS’ next set, then Sullivan put Rob Mortimer into a gaping hole 10 metres out and he waltzed over. McAlpine nailed this one, cutting the gap to four points.
Sullivan knocked out, then threw an intercept, before Branighan forced a drop-out with 10 to go.
Desperate CYMS defence kept Tui Oloapu out, although he was adamant he’d scored, and the green and golds went the length from the resulting set.
Again, it was Lasagavibau who produced some magic. He skipped onto the outside and found Satterthwaite, who scored his hat-trick.
McAlpine hit the post, leaving the game locked at 22-22 with five to go.
CYMS were awarded a penalty in the middle of the field and worked their way into range, before Sullivan’s match-winning kick.