A sneaky Trent Hemsworth field goal secured St Pat’s first Group 10 first division premiership since 2005 at Cowra on Sunday, the Saints downing cross-city rivals Bathurst Panthers 27-14 in a brutal derby decider to back up the club’s league tag win from that morning.
Although his one-pointer actually came 12 minutes from full-time it pushed the Saints more than two converted tries in front, and killed the momentum Panthers had built in the five or so minutes directly before it.
With his side leading 26-14 and working their way back after a Panthers try was disallowed in the corner, Hemsworth darted out of acting half and caught everyone at Sid Kallas unawares, nailing his attempt from 20 out.
Although they’d been threatening a potential comeback, that was the final nail in Panthers’ coffin.
“It was a massive effort, Panthers started well and I thought they were on top but we’d asked the boys to come here with a good, positive attitude and they kept that going, I’m very pleased,” St Pat’s veteran captain-coach Chris Osborne said.
Osborne was superb at halfback in the decider win and the win highlighted a special moment for him, and a number of his long-term teammates.
“We’d struggled for numbers a bit so I called a few of the boys and they came to help. I got to play with some of my best mates out there [on Sunday], which is great. They’re always special, no matter what grade you’re in, but especially this one. I haven't won many either,” Osborne said with a laugh, adding that he thought class had shone through in the end.
“They’re a good young side Panthers, they’re a good bunch of local blokes and they stick together, they had a good season.”
Panthers captain-coach Jarrod Gafa, expectedly, cut a dejected figure after the loss, his side’s second to St Pat’s in the 2018 finals series along with the qualifying final three weeks ago.
“I’m really happy with the boys to have got to the grand final, but it’s just gutting,” he said.
“We just out-enthused, especially in the first half, they got us there. I’m not sure if I’ll be here next year but a lot of these guys will, they’re a good, young group and I hope they stick together.”
Panthers’ winger Ben Dolan opened the scoring with a penalty goal in the early stages and the men in black extended that lead to 8-4 after a penalty-laden 10-minute period.
St Pat’s Mark Elliot and Panthers’ Tyson Chapple traded tries in that period, before the Saints took the lead again at the 25-minute mark when Osborne sliced through, dishing off to fullback James Scott.
Osborne nailed the shot to make it 10-8, before Alex Knight’s unconverted try extended the gap to six.
Pinned in their own half, Osborne kicked high and it was caught in the breeze before bouncing fortuitously for the chasing Knight. He brushed off one would-be defender, then went 40 metres to score in the corner.
The Saints carried that lead through the break before, in a massive moment, scoring just three minutes into the second half through man-of-the-match Brent Dennis.
Osborne kicked it, then nailed a 40-20 two minutes later, Dennis scoring his second in a matter of minutes to push St Pat’s lead to three converted tries at 26-8.
St Pat’s looked capable of blowing the decider out after Panthers’ Callum Young was sent to the sin-bin, but the men in black actually scored next.
Despite being down to 12 Braydon Wicks rolled his way through four tackles to score next to the post, Dolan’s kick giving them a sniff.
It looked like Young had cut the deficit further immediately after returning too, but it was disallowed due to a forward pass and just a couple of minutes later Hemsworth imposed himself on the clash.
Although Panthers desperately tried and St Pat’s prop Brodie Samuels was sin-binned late, no more points were scored as the Saints sealed their first reserve grade win since going back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.
- BATHURST ST PAT’S 27 (Brent Dennis 2, James Scott, Alex Knight, Mark Elliot tries; Chris Osborne 3 goals; Trent Hemsworth field goal) def BATHURST PANTHERS 14 (Tyson Chapple, Braydon Wicks tries; Ben Dolan 2 goals, penalty goal)