BATHURST Panthers player-coach Jake Betts was a hat-trick hero for his side in their 34-26 win over Macquarie Raiders on Saturday night.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
The Betts-led Panthers played the greasy Apex Oval conditions beautifully to knock hosts Dubbo Macquarie Raiders out of the Peter McDonald Premiership and move into the second week of the finals.
After his individual heroics, Betts thought his side played the conditions well with rain falling inconsistently throughout the match.
"After last week we had a bit of confidence coming over here but you never know, Macquarie is a quality side," he said.
"They were very good today, I just think our boys turned up in the middle and that's what won us the game.
"We just kept turning up in the middle and worked on those little effort areas at training, they definitely showed that today."
Raiders hooker Kane McDermott was one of his side's best players in the loss and believes his side wasn't at their best.
"It was a bit disappointing to come away with the loss," he said.
"But it was just one of those days, you can't win them all."
Apex Oval was hit with a huge thunderstorm and hail prior to the start of the match but it didn't stop the Panthers from running riot early in the game.
Hooker Hudson White looked dangerous around the ruck in the opening stages of the match and made an early break to send a warning to the Macquarie defence.
But experienced Raiders playmaker Josh Merritt looked to have the ball on a string, kicking to the corners and pinning the Panthers inside their own 20m line.
However, 13 minutes in the Panthers got on the board as Betts scooped a loose ball up to score under the posts to grab his side's first points of the match.
Fullback Josh Rivett made no mistake with the conversion as Panthers led 6-0, a lead which was soon to be extended.
A third quick converted try, this time coming through Malik Blenman had the Raiders on the back foot as the score read 18-0 after 22 minutes.
After being park downed at the Panthers' end, Macquarie finally scored their first try through Corey Cox as the centre stormed over.
Blake Merritt had the kicking duties for Macquarie's first shot at goal and made no mistake as his side trailed 18-6 after 27 minutes.
A second converted try to Jake Betts swung the momentum back in favour of the visitors but a late try to Raiders fullback Josh Nixon set up an exciting second half with the Panthers leading 24-10 at the break.
Running out in the second half, Macquarie was without Jai Merritt who was forced out of the game with an injury forcing Blake Merritt to move into the halves.
Just seven minutes into the second half, Clayton Couley scored for the Raiders before Cox scored quickly to move the score to 24-20 in no time at all.
Both sides went back and forth for the next 15 minutes until Betts broke through several tackles to grab his third try of the match with Rivett once again adding the extras.
The Panthers' lead blew from 10 points out to 14 after Rivett nailed a pair of penalty goals late to move his side clear.
Macquarie scored a consolation try right on the siren through Nixon with Merritt again converting as the Panthers celebrated a tough win.
White's subtly around the ruck was brilliant during the first half especially and Betts believes the hooker has been great for several games now.
"He really did (play well), he has probably been our best player over the last six weeks but we haven't been getting him quick enough to play the balls," he said.
"But today our middles won the middle a bit and that sort of freed him up."
On his own try-scoring feat, Betts believes he didn't do anything spectacular and joked he wasn't expecting it to happen.
"It'll never happen again," he said.
"I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time."
Looking ahead, the Panthers will take on either Mudgee or Forbes and Betts knows whichever team they face will be a big challenge.
"We'll have Forbes or Mudgee, we don't know yet but it will be tough," he said.
"We've got to do it the hard way and we've put ourselves in that position but we'll just take it week by week."
After losing Jai Merritt at halftime and having CJ Ralph battling a cold, McDermott believes the Raiders didn't play the conditions well for the full 80 minutes.
"We had a few boys under the weather with a cold getting around but there's no excuse," he said.
"We had Filisone (Pauta) out and Jai (Merritt) went off.
"It was crap conditions and we didn't play good."
BATHURST PANTHERS 34 (Jake Betts 3, Malik Blenman, Kevin Large tries; Josh Rivett 5 conversions, 2 penalty goals) defeated MACQUARIE RAIDERS 26 (Josh Nixon 2, Corey Cox 2 Clayton Couley tries; Blake Merritt 3 conversions)
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.