A MASTERCLASS from Orange High School five-eighth Em McDonald led her Hornets side to the 2016 Country Cup Western Region title, the diminutive half was magnificent in Monday afternoon’s all-Orange final against James Sheahan Catholic High School.
McDonald scored a double in the five tries to two, 30-12 victory at Norton Park, had a hand in OHS’ three other four-pointers and nailed all five of her conversion attempts to boot, scoring 18 of the Hornets’ points on her own.
“Em’s really stepped up this year, she was very good [on Monday],” OHS coach Amanda Livingstone said.
The victory wasn’t without moments of nerves for Orange High though.
The Hornets shot out to a 24-0 lead with four quick, converted tries and took that buffer into the half-time break, they looked very likely to run away with the decider and potentially pile on a cricket score at that point.
Then they fell asleep, and the Tim Mortimer-coached James Sheahan side lifted.
The hosts came alive after the half-time break, controlling possession well and keeping OHS pinned in their own half.
The continued pressure eventually told when James Sheahan, Manildra Rhinos and Western Rams fullback Heidi Regan scored a quick-fire brace to cut the deficit to two converted tries at 24-12, and give her side a sniff.
Orange High woke up eventually, holding out several more James Sheahan attacking raids and scoring a late try – through McDonald of course – to seal the 18-point win and the title.
“I think the girls might have been a bit cocky (after half-time), they fell asleep a bit,” Livingstone said.
“But they’ll be very excited with the win. We’ll lose three or four girls next year, but we’ve got a lot of young ones in the side, there’s a few year eights.
“We’ve got a gala day in Grenfell coming up and we’ll probably take a busload over, all the girls who tried out, that’ll be another good day.”
The game did finish on a slightly panicky note, one of the James Sheahan girls was floored after heavy – and accidental – contact in an attempted tag.
Although she looked to be out cold originally, in a positive sign she found her feet and walked off with assistance from Mortimer.
Orange High hit the front in the fifth minute with an early try through the middle and McDonald nailed the kick to see the Hornets lead 6-0.
She then scored one of her own 10 minutes later, dummying inside as she crabbed her way across field, eventually straightening and diving over in the left corner – she nailed the almost-sideline conversion to give OHS a 12-0 lead.
The Hornets scored twice more in the opening half to lead 24-0 at the break.
After half-time Regan immediately kicked things off with a converted try. The hosts continually attacked OHS’ right-edge defence in the next stages, and twice Brigette Jasprizza came within inches of scoring, but desperation tags saved the Hornets.
The pressure told eventually, as Regan skipped past a couple of would-be taggers and finished the movement with a desperate swan-dive for the line to score, and cut the deficit to 12.
OHS finally found some possession after that though, forcing several repeat sets in a row which eventually led to McDonald grabbing her second and sealing the win.