By MARK RAYNER
St Pat’s have completed a remarkable season in the Group 10 under 18s, snatching the premiership with a 20-10 win against their highly rated opponents Bathurst Panthers at Tony Luchetti Sportsground yesterday.
Pat’s only finished the regular season in fourth position, well behind the top two teams Mudgee and Panthers.
Those two were expected to meet in the grand final, but Pat’s upset that by beating Mudgee 17-10 in the preliminary final and they showed similar determination in Lithgow yesterday as they upstaged the men in black.
St Pat’s coach Kevin Grimshaw said his team had a real hunger to go out and get a title after several of them were on the end of a grand final defeat last year in the Pat’s under 16s.
“It was a hard game, as you’d expect from a grand final. Full credit to Panthers, they’ve been a good side all year, but there has to be a winner and a loser and today was our day,” he said.
“We spoke all week about our desire and will to win it. On paper they were even sides, but it was a matter of who came out on the day and really wanted to win it. I think these kids really did. They were bridesmaids in the under 16s last year and they were desperate to win.
“Some of these guys from both teams are good mates and there was a bit of banter going on. Panthers have some really good players like Blake Lawson, Mike Ingwersen and Joey Bugg, but I think our guys wanted to prove they are up there with them.”
The Panthers have been noted for their dangerous attack this season and they showed why in the first 10 minutes of the game. Their forwards carted the ball up the field before their passing game opened up space out wide on the left for centre Josh Small to go over for a four-pointer. Ben Dolan missed the wide conversion.
Pat’s then began to get themselves into the game and they spent their fair share of time in Panthers territory, but twice they squandered good opportunities just metres out from the try line.
The blue and whites finally got on the board just three minutes out from half-time. Centre Jake Bright had enough speed to get past his defender and go over, with Campbell Scott putting his team in front with the conversion.
It gave the Saints the momentum heading into half-time and they came out and started the second half very positively.
They were over the line again just minutes after the resumption, spreading the ball and stretching the Panthers defence before Derryn Clayton scored.
Panthers rallied on the back of their classy halfback Bugg. He opted to run on the fifth tackle and caught the defence napping, giving a pass to Lawson who had an easy run to the line. Small added the extras to lock the scores at 10-all, but from then on St Pat’s dominated.
The underdogs went up a gear and they capitalised on some sloppy handling from Panthers.
Cody Sharah scored to give Pat’s a 16-10 lead with 10 left in the game and Bright went over for his second with just over three minutes remaining to sow the premiership up for his side.
It capped a good weekend for St Pat’s as their under 15s and 16s won their deciders in Orange a day earlier and Grimshaw said it should ensure that the 18s team remains strong for years to come.
“There will be about eight of this side go around again and we had our 15s and 16s win their junior grand finals yesterday [Saturday], so it’s looking good for the club.”
ST PAT’S 20 (Jake Bright 2, Cody Sharah, Derryn Clayton tries; Campbell Scott 2 goals) defeated BATHURST PANTHERS 10 (Josh Small, Blake Lawson tries; Josh Small goal)