BATHURST Bulldogs duo Josh Carter and Isiah Ackroyd got to live out every footballer’s dream on Saturday, combining for a last-gasp one-two punch which secured their side the Blowes Clothing Cup colts premiership in the most dramatic fashion.
Trailing Orange City Lions 11-5 with just seconds remaining, front-rower Carter used brute strength to barge over from close range before fullback Ackroyd added the extras from adjacent to the sticks to complete the fairytale finish.
The successful conversion sparked wild scenes, with Bulldogs’ bench and supporters flooding onto Endeavour Oval in raptures as the City side sunk to the turf.
Bulldogs coach Jordan Bull admitted to believing the match was beyond his side’s reach in the closing stages.
“I thought we were gone,” he said.
“We knew there was no time left and it was such a tight game I thought there was no way we would score.
“But the boys found a way.”
On the balance of play they probably did, with the blue and golds dominating both territory and possession for large stretches of the game.
The eventual premiers trailed early, courtesy of a well-struck penalty goal from Lions halfback Tom West, but hit back soon after when blockbusting No.8 Dylan Carter showed determination to beat a couple of would-be tacklers and stretch out to find the stripe.
The score remained at 5-3 as referee Jarrod Simpson blew the whistle for half time.
Bulldogs looked to be getting the better of the arm wrestle when play resumed, but when they conceded a penalty in their own quarter it afforded West the chance to put his side back into the lead.
He made no mistake, and armed with a one-point lead the Lions started to lift with just 15 minutes remaining.
Orange City made the most of their ascendancy, camping in Bulldogs territory for the next 10 minutes before translating their advantage to the scoreboard when winger Hamish Cranney crashed over in the corner.
Tellingly, West missed what was an incredibly difficult conversion attempt, which kept the margin within a converted try.
When Bulldogs second-rower Jason Corliss was shown a yellow card a minute later, it seemed only a miracle would save the Bathurst boys.
Thanks to Carter and Ackroyd, they were able to conjure one.
Bull paid tribute to his side’s never-say-die attitude.
“I thought we were the better side for most of the game,” he said.
“But when they got that last try I thought we were gone.
“It’s a great credit to the boys that they stuck in there and got it done in the end.”
Orange City coach Fletcher Niven lamented a lack of composure from his side at critical moments.
“Decision making let us down a lot of the time,” he said.
“There were lots of times we could have got the ball down the other end and saved ourselves some trouble, but we weren’t able to.”
He said the disappointment felt by his troops was understandable, but he had no doubts they had acquitted themselves well.
“Being ahead with no time of the clock you’re usually home, but you have to play to the whistle,” Niven said.
“The boys had a crack and a couple of decisions didn’t go their way, but that’s life.”
Dylan Carter was a standout for the victors, ably supported by Ackroyd and five-eighth Jim Davis, while for City, captain Mitch Winslade, AJ McNiven and West worked tirelessly.
BATHURST BULLDOGS 12 (Dylan Carter, Josh Carter tries; Isiah Ackroyd conv) def ORANGE CITY LIONS 11 (Hamish Cranney try, Tom West 2 pen goals)