ASHWOOD Park had been a fortress all year for Bathurst Bulldogs and it remained that way on Saturday as they downed Cowra Eagles 27-0 in the Blowes Clothing Cup preliminary final.
In making it nine games at their home ground without defeat – and having amassed just shy of 400 in that time – Bulldogs booked a place in the grand final alongside Orange Emus.
While disappointed that his side’s season had come to an end, Cowra skipper Chris Miller could not fault the effort of his team-mates.
Even in the final minute they were pressing on Bulldogs’ line, looking for a try despite the knowledge their season was about to end.
“Twenty-seven to nil I don’t think is a fair reflection of the game, Bulldogs definitely deserved the win, but we stuck right in there, we never gave up,” the talented lock said.
“That’s Cowra’s way of doing things, we showed that today, we just didn’t get the points on the board.”
Both sides struggled to adjust to the cold, wet and windy conditions early as the game was frequently punctuated by knock-ons, but on 18 minutes Bulldogs struck.
Harry Peacock split Cowra’s defence up the middle to score and the conversion made it 7-0.
But after that it was the Eagles who took control of possession and finally managed to couple good phase rugby with the metres their back line earned in broken play.
Prop Josaia Dakuitoga got within inches of scoring while his team-mates also steamed onto the ball in an attempt to bust Bulldogs’ on-line defence. But it held.
Even when Pate Beramaisuva had the chance to open Cowra’s account with a penalty goal, his attempt was waved away.
Having absorbed that pressure, in the final five minutes of the half Bulldogs finally managed to get back inside Cowra’s 22.
Replacement Phil Tonkin looked destined to score only to have the ball knocked from his grasp thanks to a brilliant Kalova Nacina tackle, but Will Oldham slotted a penalty goal soon after to give Bulldogs a 10-0 lead at the break.
That advantage opened up further just six minutes into the second half. Centre Harry Webber found space down the right flank.
He then found Oldham in support and he crossed untouched.
Josh Weekes’ conversion took it to 17-0.
Miller admitted Cowra could have shown more patience in attack during the first half when his side enjoyed a majority of possession.
“We played the same way we’ve been playing the last three or four weeks when it’s been dry conditions and obviously a few balls didn’t go to hand and what not with the slippery ball. We just didn’t adapt to the conditions,” he said.