HE had struggled with his goal kicking all Saturday afternoon in blustery conditions at University Oval, but when CSU skipper Jack Keppel lined up for a long range penalty attempt in the dying minutes he delivered.
He nailed his sideline shot from just over 10 metres his side of halfway to hand CSU a 30-29 win over New Holland Cup rivals Mudgee.
Having let a half-time lead slip in their season opener against Blayney and then going from an eight-point advantage at the break to 29-10 deficit against the Wombats, CSU coach Luke Kelly cast a nervous figure.
But the students responded and Kelly was delighted.
“That was just a gutsy win. Somebody’s O had to go, and thank God ours went, we got our first win,” Kelly said.
“We are now one and one and on to bigger and better things hopefully.
“Full credit to their scrum. They had the dominant scrum today unfortunately for us and we just had to find ways to counter-act it and develop other strategies.”
Before the late match-winning kick, CSU had got off to a flying start with two tries in the opening nine minutes.
A strong fend helped Regan Hughes – who was making his debut for CSU – to the opener while Keppel bagged the second when taking a quick penalty tap and diving over.
That made it 10-0, but momentum soon swung in favour of the Wombats.
Hooker Adam Rayner barged his way over following a strong run from Alex Saint, Cameron Rosmain then giving the visitors the lead as he scored after an attacking line-out and converted his own try.
It was a lead which lasted just four minutes as CSU hit back, a smart inside ball from Keppel sending Hughes over for his second.
CSU added another before the break as hooker Reed Jackson muscled his way over in the left corner, his effort making it 20-12.
However, momentum swung once more after the break as the Wombats used the size advantage of their pack well.
Number eight David Jessiman scored a double – the second off the back of a driving scrum – and with CSU losing Thomas Graham to a yellow card for 10 minutes, things did not look good for the hosts.
Mudgee pushed further ahead as the game approached the hour mark as another strong charge from centre Saint set up David Birch.
That made it 29-10, but CSU lifted and worked its way back into the contest.
Keppel showed strength to bully his way over the line and when Chris Porter added the extras, Mudgee’s lead was cut to just two points.
The skipper then nailed a penalty goal with three minutes left on the clock to get his side over the line.
“He’s a showtime boy isn’t he? He’s a great captain and he can take this team a long way,” Kelly said of Keppel.
“He had it, I never doubted him.”
While it was an improvement from their first round 33-0 loss to Narromine, stand-in Mudgee coach Rob O’Connor still found the result hard to take.
“We pretty much stuck to what we were hoping to do for the whole game, but there were a couple of bad decisions right at the death there,” he said.
“It’s pretty hard to take. There are a lot of new players this year and a lot of new things happening at the club.
“To tell the truth, I think CSU were a better team that Narromine. At least we are headed in the right direction, but a loss like that, it’s pretty hard to take.”