Orange Hawks are red-hot favourites to claim the 2017 Country Rugby League Western Region Women’s Nines title, notching two more wins in Saturday’s final rounds to remain undefeated and win through to next month’s finals day in top spot.
The two blues are now two wins away from sealing the inaugural title – the competition was played last year, but not in a competitive format.
But standing in their way, just as they did in the Group 10 league tag season, is Bathurst St Pat’s.
Although the Saints are one of two sides Hawks accounted for in last weekend’s final two preliminary rounds, St Pat’s clung on to second spot to set up a juicy major semi-final clash against the two blues at Dubbo’s Caltex Park on November 4.
The clash will continue the fierce rivalry between the two clubs, they squared off in the league tag major semi-final and then grand final too, the Saints winning both.
Hawks went through the league tag season undefeated until they hit the finals too, and will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself next month.
Playing at Bathurst’s University Oval on Saturday afternoon, Hawks accounted for St Pat’s 12-4 in a three-tries-to-one victory before an Ella-J Harris brace inspired the side to a 30-0 thrashing of Oberon-Nyngan in the final round.
Lauding the two blues’ defensive performance, St Pat’s Meredith Jones knows her side needs to shift up a gear if they’re to break Hawks’ hearts again.
“They’re tackling really well, they have two in every single time … that’s probably the difference.
Our ball skills are probably on par with Hawks, but their defence is just too good at the moment.- St Pat's Meredith Jones
“We are still trying to get the gist of it and we are going in too high,” she said.
“I think you can tell we are more of a [league] tag team than a league team.
“I feel our ball skills are pretty good and probably on par with them, but their defence is just too good at the moment.
“We aren’t that far off them, but I think it will probably take us two or three seasons to get the gist of this.
“We’ve got to get over that fear of going full on.”
Jones actually gave her side a 4-0 lead not long into Saturday’s clash, her effort in the right corner giving the Saints hope of avenging the 16-6 loss they suffered to loss in the competition-opener.
But Hawks hit back straight away through Sally Dwyer, who finished off from a Sophie Stammers break.
Jacky Lyden steamrolled two defenders to score not long after and Harris darted over from dummy-half to seal the victory.
She crossed twice as Hawks waltzed through Oberon-Nyngan, the two blues scoring five tries to the Tigers’ none.
Kaitlyn Phillips, Dwyer and Em McDonald all scored in that game as well, the latter nailing all five of her attempts at goal.