While there were no losers at Sid Kallas Oval on Saturday, Cowra and Mudgee were left feeling empty following their 22-all draw.
Both sides laid claims to sing the team song, but, in the end, had to be satisfied splitting the points in an exciting pre-cursor to the finals.
However, the home side showed that, if they make the top five, they have the artillery other sides should fear.
Magpies coach, Craig Jeffries was left with mixed feelings at the end of 80 minutes.
“It is a bit hollow, but the effort was there and I thought we played good enough to win and they probably think the same thing,” he said.
It looked as if it was to be Cowra’s day when Mudgee fumbled 10m out from their own try line in their first set of the match.
However, there was a long settling period until Cowra worked the numbers in the 14th minute for centre Simon Pettit to score out wide.
A subsequent Magpies set saw Luke Hilton slice through and the ladder leaders looked rattled.
They held and, in the 22nd minute, Dragon’s lock Mitch Devine raced 30m to even it up at six a piece.
Cowra centre, Brad Wright, made a long run from a scrum win five minutes later which led to Will Ingram planting it down before Mudgee’s Corin Smith snatched a grubber to trail 12-10 at the break.
On the resumption, the visitors put on two converted tries through a beautifully worked short side play to winger Todd Munn and a determined effort from five-eighth Tim Condon to lead 22-12.
The Magpies seemed to be self-destructing with pointless penalties, including an offside from the re-start after Munn’s try.
When Cowra forced a repeat set in the 55th minute, with Caley Mok scoring in the corner during the ensuing set, momentum shifted and the Dragons were on the back foot.
Simon Pettit’s double locked it up at 22-all with a quarter of the match still to play.
Cowra had the better of the territory in the tense 20 minutes before the siren.
Warren Williams put the fist in the air after a field goal attempt with seven to go for it to be waved away.
Mudgee then believed they had snatched victory with barely three minutes on the clock when a horror bounce from a kick was pounced on, but they were ruled offside.
The deadlock remained.
“We thought the field goal went over because the Mudgee players’ body language dropped,” Jeffries said.
“We had a really bad period when they put two tries on us after half time, but to their credit they dug out of it and came back.
“It leaves the door ajar definitely and we have one game away left and we finish with two and our efforts at home have been pretty good. Sides know when they come here that there in for a hard game which is a good thing.
“This time last year we had three wins and we have four wins and a draw this time around. It’s a credit to the players (both young and old).
“Even though we are ahead on points of where we were last year, we probably find ourselves in a similar position, needing to continue to accrue points to get in the semis.
Mudgee captain-coach, Matt Stott, was critical of his sides’ discipline.
“At half time we weren’t happy with the way things were going and we addressed those and came out and scored a couple of quick tries,” he said.
“Maybe we backed off once we scored those quick tries and we made a fair few errors.
“In defence we gave a lot of penalties away on the fourth tackle and we piggy-backed them down the field and they scored six points both times.
“We gave them an invitation and there are some quality players in that side. Full credit to Cowra, there a good side and they played well today.
“We have St Pats next week and a little bit of work to do at training, but it’s a week to week thing from here on - I think it’s anyone’s competition, so anyone who makes the five will be a contender and things are getting tense towards the business end of the season.”
Cowra Magpies 22 (Simon Pettit 2, Caley Mok, Will Ingram tries; Caley Mok 3 conv) drew with Mudgee Dragons 22 (Corin Smith, Todd Munn, Tim Condon, Mitch Devine tries; Matt Stott 3 conv)
Mudgee Dragons 28 (Brad James, Nat White, Ray Thorn, Andrew Laurie, J Penning tries; Brad James 4 conv) defeated Cowra Magpies 22 (Sam Ingram 2 , Ricky Whitton, Des Doolan tries; Des Doolan 3 conv)
Mudgee Dragons 28 (Kyle Alexander 3, Mitch Squire 2 tries; James O’Connell 4 conv) defeated Cowra Magpies 12 (Seamus Leyland, Liam Slatter tries; Kieren Murray 2 conv)