IT took a display of tough tackling, tactical awareness and speed in attack, but Bathurst Bulldogs' five-year reign as the queens of Central West Rugby Union has finally ended.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
The Dubbo Roolettes posted a 15-7 win in Saturday's Ferguson Cup grand final at Ashwood Park to not only finish 2022 as undefeated champions, but end the longest premiership streak of any Central West women's side.
The Roolettes defended superbly in the first half against a stiff breeze to see it nil-all at the break.
In the second half Dubbo inside centre Madeline Piccolo kicked smartly with the wind to help put her side in good positions, and with captain Janalee Conroy inspiring in attack, the points came.
Bulldogs did give themselves a sniff at 12-7 with 10 and a half minutes left, but this time it was not to be for the Bathurst side.
The Roolettes celebrated the club's first female premiership, Bulldogs were left to taste defeat on grand final day for the first time in six years.
"We did everything we could, we threw every trick we had at them, they were just better on the the day," Bulldogs captain Mel Waterford said.
"It hurts from not winning, but I'm also so proud of the way the girls gave it everything out there today. You can't be sad when you gave it everything, we gave it 110 percent."
With wind gusts of up to 35km/hr hitting Ashwood Park, Dubbo's first half defence when running into it was to prove critical.
"We weren't letting them get in, we weren't going to let them in this time," Conroy said of her side's defence.
Bulldogs spent the first five minutes of the match deep in Dubbo territory, a penalty helping them gain good field position.
But, just as was the case in the preliminary final, the Roolettes were well organised in defence and Bulldogs couldn't crack them.
Bulldogs also had plenty to do in defence in that opening half too. Number 8 Daisy Morrissey, who was outstanding for the beaten Bathurst side, pulled off big hit after big hit.
Waterford came up with a crucial play when Roos were inside Bathurst's 22, trying to pilfer and drawing a penalty as Dubbo failed to release.
Then there was the covering tackle from Bulldogs prop Marita Shoulders on Dubbo winger Ailee Tremain.
It meant the rivals headed to half-time locked at nil-all, but early in the second half momentum swung.
Dubbo breakaway Darby Richardson forced a turnover with some smart work at the breakdown and a handful of phases later Conroy was over for the opening try.
Piccolo had no luck with her conversion attempt as the ball blew off the tee, but her smart tactical kicks in the second half did make a difference.
It was after gaining territory on the back of her boot that the Roolettes scored again with 15 minutes left on the clock.
After aiming phases at the left edge, the Roolettes then quickly moved the ball to the right, going through five sets of hands to create space for Tremain to score.
"Their defence, they've got bloody good defence, so you just have to shift fast," the winger said.
"It was shift, shift, shift and that was the only way we could get around them.
"To score in a grand final, it bloody feels unreal. It's indescribable, it's just such a good feeling."
Conroy said she also felt more confident after that second try, which Piccolo converted to make it 12-0.
"When we got that second try, that one Ailee got on the outside, I felt a bit more relief then. The first try set it up but the second try definitely took a lot out of them," she said.
But Bulldogs, as champion sides do, did not give up.
A smart grubber and good chase from five-eighth Teagan Miller earned Bulldogs an attacking line out. They secured the ball and four phases later Brydie Comiskey charged over.
Jacinta Windsor steered her conversion between the sticks to make it 12-7 and Bulldogs were still in with a chance.
However, Piccolo kicked a penalty goal with eight minutes left to put the margin beyond a converted try.
Bulldogs kept coming until the final siren, but 15-7 was where it finished.
"They've got a really good kicker, they played it into the corners and they gave themselves opportunities to attack. They just played really well," Waterford said.
"They're a class side, but we'll want this more next year.
"We've got girls who are 15 and 16-year-olds playing their first season of rugby, it's unbelievable what they did today and they'll only get better from this experience."
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.