UNDERSTRENGTH, battered and playing for pride - it was going to take the upset of the season for St Pat's to take down Orange Hawks on Sunday.
It wasn't to be.
Hawks maintained their Group 10 premier league lead heading into the last round of the regular season with a thumping 50-10 win at Jack Arrow Oval.
Pat's centre Chris Kirby scored a try in each half but his efforts were surrounded by a relentless barrage of Hawks points.
Saints player-coach Luke Branighan said the Hawks were fired up from the opening minutes in their pursuit to hold onto top spot.
"We started off poorly and Hawks were far too good. Credit to our guys because there was a period of the game there where it could have gone even further the other way but they hung in there," he said.
"Hawks are one of the sides to beat this year. They're so strong across the park.
"It was a tough day at the office but there's a lot of blokes who have been thrown into first grade this year through injuries and whatever experience they get - even off the back of a few losses - will put them in good stead for the years to come."
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Pat's have the chance to end their year on a high next weekend when they travel to play the Blayney Bears in a match pitting together the two bottom teams on the ladder.
Bears haven't won a match this season and Branighan's in no mood to end his tenure with the Saints on a losing note.
"They won't be easy and they'll be seeing this game as a possible win," he said.
"We need to go over with a good attitude, and if we do we'll give ourselves an opportunity to get that elusive win."
Victory has kept Hawks ahead of Bathurst Panthers in the race for the minor premiership.