COMEBACKS and brick walls, red cards and draws, finals rugby always brings the unexpected.
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The Molong Magpies and Coonabarabran Kookaburras drawing the Oilsplus Cup decider 21-all was something nobody tipped.
Bathurst Bulldogs coming from 13 points down to beat the Eagles in Cowra for the first time in Blowes Cup since 2019 had looked unlikely as well.
Then there was the Dubbo Roolettes - it wasn't a surprise they extended their winning run, but who would have expected they'd hold Bathurst Bulldogs tryless?
We unpack all that and more in this week's Tuesday Tight Five.
HAVE you heard that saying about things being so tense you could cut the air with a knife? Well that was certainly the case at Cowra on Saturday.
It was air that had been well and truly sliced and diced by full-time.
In the Blowes Cup major semi-final between Cowra and the Bathurst Bulldogs, the Eagles were leading 20-7 and 13 minutes into the second half sharp shooter Noah Ryan was lining up another penalty.
He's the man that last season converted 26 Eagles tries and slotted four penalty goals in 10 games on his way to being the highest point-scorer in Blowes Cup.
He'd already kicked a superb sideline conversion in the first half and if Bulldogs went more than two converted tries behind, what was already looking a long way back would be even tougher.
It was tense. Ryan missed.
Bulldogs then clawed their way back to lead by a point, but there were still 11 minutes left.
With 30 seconds to go Cowra was in possession inside Bulldogs' 22. Cut that air again.
While that attacking movement did not lead to points there was one more tense moment to come.
Bulldog Justin Mobbs turned around and kicked the ball dead in goal to trigger the final whistle, but it very nearly hit the goal post.
Certainly Bulldogs co-coach Dean Oxley was one very relieved man when the final whistle sounded.
"Noah has kicked Cowra to wins a number of times during the year, so we were all riding that one," Oxley said of the missed penalty attempt.
"I suppose because we've been heartbroken a few times I thought it could've been taken from us at the end.
"It was just one of those hard games, down 20-7, we just had to keep believing in the system and that's what it was.
"We have finished over the top of sides a lot this year, so they have got a lot of belief in their 80 minutes of football and that's what they played."
HOW do you stop a side that has been the benchmark of the North Cup competition on the biggest day of the season?
That is the question facing CSU as it prepares for this Saturday's North Cup grand final against the Mudgee Wombats.
The answer, at least according to coach CSU Marcus Burrell, is for the students to find their defensive mongrel and challenge the Wombats forwards.
"There's certain things that Mudgee do really, really well and they exploit and our girls need to pick up with their controlled aggression," he said.
"We can't let their forwards roll through us like we do every single time we play them, they make big metres. So that's something I've got to work on this week."
CSU has enjoyed a good rivalry with Mudgee since the North Cup premiership was introduced by Central West Rugby Union officials.
The inaugural edition in 2020 saw CSU beat Mudgee 29-17 on grand final day.
Last season CSU went through its round games undefeated, but in the preliminary final the Wombats sprung a huge upset when defeating the students 36-19.
This season Mudgee has continued its strong record against CSU - the two most recent meetings between the pair have resulted in 56-12 and 42-5 wins to the Wombats.
But upsets have happened on grand final day before and CSU is maintaining hope it can produce the latest shock.
"We'll use the same plan going into this weekend that we used against Parkes [in preliminary final] and it worked," Burrell said.
"Hopefully we can pull our fingers out and can come away with a victory."
IT'S no great secret Dubbo Roolettes are a side that knows how to score points - they've averaged over 40 points per game this Ferguson Cup season - but their strength is not purely attack mode.
Though the undefeated minor premiers have not often had to show it, they are also very good when it comes to defence.
It was something the Roolettes reminded us of in Saturday's 19-3 preliminary final win over the Bulldogs.
Holding the try line intact against a side like Bathurst Bulldogs is certainly an impressive feat.
Bulldogs threw plenty at the Roolettes as well, Bathurst captain Mel Waterford giving her rivals credit for their efforts.
"Their defence is phenomenal, they have such a good defensive line. They really come up and attack in defence and that's so hard to get through," Waterford said.
The preliminary final was not the only time the Roolettes have proved hard to crack either. When beating Bulldogs 14-10 in round 10 it was a similar scenario.
"They defended well, we defended well too. We matched them the whole way through, it was just us trying to convert on their line which is the same thing which happened the last time we played them," Waterford said.
"We just have to find that way to get through."
The Roolettes have only conceded six tries so far this season and never more than once in a game.
"THERE are a lot of areas we need to work on and the biggest one is discipline."
That was one of the key takeaways for Dubbo Rhinos coach Doug Sandry after his side's 37-33 loss to Parkes in the New Holland Cup preliminary final.
At times during the season the Rhinos put together the kind of performances which made them look a very real chance of premiership success, but other times the Dubbo side hurt itself with poor discipline.
It cost them victories and at times it also hurt them due to player suspensions.
Saturday was one of those occasions.
The Rhinos played the majority of the final with 14 men after Kaiden Hill was red-carded in the eighth minute. Nash Forgione was then shown the same piece of plastic in the dying stages of the clash.
So after a heart-breaking loss, it is obvious what Sandry will focus on as he now looks towards next season.
If Rhinos are to truly be premiership contenders in 2023, seeing red and yellow can not be a regular occurrence.
WHILE most would look to the success of a first grade outfit to gauge the success of a club, the heart of an organisation can often be found in those frequently overlooked lower grades.
This was certainly the case for Orange City in 2022.
The Lions' first and second grade units did not have much success on the field this year. Meanwhile, both their third grade and colts outfits found themselves in semi-finals on Sunday.
Although they both ultimately fell in close encounters, it was that resilience in less than ideal circumstances that will serve the Lions well as they celebrate their 50th years as a club in 2023.
City third grade coach Adam Harrison said after the minor semi-final loss to Bathurst Bulldogs that he felt sorry for their fans that the club was not able to progress any further in the finals.
While a big turnaround will be needed to ensure there is something for the Lions to celebrate next year, the spirit has always been there and we're sure they will pull out all the stops to make it a season to remember.
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