ST Pat's hopes of being part of the final series of the inaugural Peter McDonald Premiership hangs in the air after going down 10-6 to Orange CYMS in a wet, cold, muddy and hard-fought Saturday night clash at Wade Park.
While Pat's was hoping to post its first win over CYMS since April 2019, it was not to be as Orange back rowers Alex McMillan and Ethan Bereyne proved the difference by each bagging a try.
The loss leaves the Saints in a precarious position as they came into the round just one point up on the Orange Hawks.
"We know we have to win. We have a bye this weekend which probably isn't a bad thing, we've got a couple of niggling injuries tonight," captain-coach Zac Merritt said.
"We'll have the bye, rip into a good week of training and get ready for Cowra at home. We'll be ready to rock and roll for that game."
With eight games taking place at Wade Park in a 24 hour span prior to the Peter McDonald Premiership game's kick-off, combined with the wet weather, CYMS coach Daniel Mortimer knew that ball security would be as important as ever.
"The cricket pitch was pretty muddy. I think the boys were still in the showers scrubbing mud out of every hole in their body an hour after the game," he said.
"We obviously talked about respecting the ball and completing our sets and St Pat's did the same thing. I think in the first half only had one error in those conditions. They made us work hard but we defended quite well and we worked hard for reach other and turned a corner in our defence and it showed."
The score stood at 6-4 for the majority of the contest, before a St Pat's penalty goal evened things up.
"In those sorts of games, there's not too many points that are going to come your way," Merritt said.
"Because we were rolling through them pretty easy, I thought if we took the two we'd then give ourselves an opportunity to get back in front."
But unfortunately for the visitors, they weren't able to capitalise on the pressure.
"We had that opportunity with about eight minutes to go and we didn't take it," Merritt added.
"They're little things we have to work on heading into the back end. That's how you get better, you work on those little things."
CYMS would go down the other end and take the lead through Bereyne.
Mortimer said he agreed with the decision by the visitors to tie things up.
"It was one of those days where there weren't many points in the game because it was so slow and muddy and a real grind," he said.
"Luckily we got up their end, played some good footy and managed to pull ahead again. There were some very nervous moments in that last five minutes on our line defending, but we managed to hold them out and that's a really big two points for us."
CYMS were tied on points with Group 10 leaders Mudgee Dragons coming into the round and three points up on Bathurst Panthers who had the bye.
Mortimer said the goal for the rest of the season was clear.
"We want to finish top two. If you finish top two, you get two cracks at the finals so it is a really big bonus," he added.
"That's our goal and we've kicked that off well and now we go into our bye off a win which is also nice. Then we have four big games back-to-back to finish the year.
"That will get us ready for finals footy and we've just got to chalk up the wins."
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