BATHURST'S rugby league future is looking bright after a hard fought Group 10 under 18s grand final derby between St Pat's and Panthers, and among the leaders in that group is Nic Barlow.
The Saints lock was named best on ground in his side's 20-8 victory over the Panthers, which delivered his club their first premiership in the age group for seven years.
Barlow had the ultimate two-way performance in the decider.
He was tireless in offence while steering the ship in defence - the latter being the decisive factor in the Saints' success.
The Pat's captain was ecstatic during the post-game celebrations.
"Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now," he said.
"We've worked so hard all year to get to this stage. For it all to pay off, I'm speechless."
Pat's and Panthers came together for the first all-Bathurst under 18s decider since the 2012 clash.
Panthers were hoping to avoid the result from that day but the St Pat's defence had other ideas.
The minor premier Saints showed why they finished on top of the table with energetic runs off the defensive line and discovering big gains through the middle of the park.
The player of the match award was hardly up for debate.
Barlow himself opened the scoring when he barged past a pair of Panthers defenders next to the uprights.
He then broke through the Panthers line to set up Tyler Colley for the team's second try shortly after half-time.
The Pat's captain was yet again involved in the team's next try when he found an offload to Cooper Akroyd, who in turn put Ben Mackey into space.
It wasn't as if the Panthers were starved of opportunities to reply, especially in a team stacked with creative talent, but the Pat's defence turned up to play.
By the time Panthers found a response with the score at 20-4 the game had just three minutes left on the clock.
Panthers had beaten Pat's in the major semi-final to book the first place in the grand final while the Saints had to fight past the Blayney Bears to reach the decider.
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- READ ALSO: Mammoth defensive effort from St Pat's takes them to Group 10 under 18s grand final victory over Bathurst Panthers
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Barlow said the lead up to the grand final had its ups and downs but the team had renewed focus for the game which mattered most.
"We've had some trouble over the last couple of weeks with our defence but today it worked really well and that's what won it for us in the end," he said.
"We were a bit up and down. I don't think the week off after finishing minor premiers helped us. I think we needed to be playing week after week.
"When we played Panthers after that week off we weren't really feeling it but to get past Blayney, have another shot at Panthers and win it is unreal."
Pat's are well poised to feature in next year's Group 10 under 18s finals series since the majority of their side will be eligible for another crack at the age group.
Sunday's victory marked the Saints' third under 18s title over the past decade.