Orange Hawks’ Group 10 premier league season is still alive after the two blues survived a barnstorming second-half comeback from the Cowra Magpies to seal a narrow 32-28 victory at Wade Park on Sunday afternoon.
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A loss would’ve eliminated Hawks from the title race and with their season on the line the two blues produced a scintillating first-half show, shooting to a 24-0 lead at the break and looking likely to put a cricket score on the Magpies.
Then, inexplicably, the tide turned.
Cowra scored four tries in the first 15 minutes after half-time to cut the deficit to just two points with a heap of time left to play, sending plenty of nerves through the Hawks’ camp.
In similar situations earlier in the year the two blues imploded completely, not this time. Hawks scored the next two tries and although they conceded one more, held on to secure the crucial victory.
It’s a win that keeps the side in the fight for fifth with Cowra and Workies, although the latter side did the two blues no favours by stunning Orange CYMS on Saturday.
“That Lithgow-CYMS result doesn’t really work in our favour, but we’re still alive,” Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta said.
Cowra has the bye in the final round and those two guaranteed points mean the Magpies are sweating on Hawks and Workies losing next week, that would see them jump into fifth.
Disappointed his side’s fate is now in other teams’ hands, Cowra five-eighth Warren Williams put the defeat down to his side’s snail-like start.
“The first half made the difference. If we’d played the way we did in the second half in the first half, we would’ve got the job done,” Williams said.
“Once we started putting some plays together and sticking to our structure it came off, but we couldn’t do it in that first half.”
The two blues wreaked havoc in the opening 15 minutes. Well, Sione Tongia did anyway. The mountainous centre scored in the fourth and sixth minutes to give his side an 8-0 lead and looked to have grabbed his third in the eighth minute too, but it was called back for a forward pass.
It didn’t slow him down, he promptly put Jordan Baker over a couple of minutes later and although Heta missed his third straight kick, Hawks had all the momentum.
They built on it too, Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill running in two tries in as many minutes to extend Hawks’ lead to 24 – with two Heta conversions – at the break.
It was a completely different Cowra side which returned to Wade Park though – a clinical, exciting, fluent Cowra side.
The Magpies completed and basically starved Hawks of the ball for the next 20 minutes, with Zac Browne, Desi Doolan, Cam Breust and Ron Lawrence all crossing the cut the gap to two points at 24-22.
The whole crowd, Cowra and Hawks fans alike, could feel the game slipping away from the two blues.
Heta’s troops didn’t let it go though, scoring twice more and holding on to win.
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