THE Oberon Tigers will face an emboldened Orange Hawks outfit at Orange this weekend as the Group 10 premier league season continues.
The scintillating Hawks gave the Bathurst Panthers a scare in front of a bumper crowd at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on Saturday, so are set to be up for the contest against the third-placed Tigers.
Sitting second on the ladder with just one loss next to their name at the halfway point of the season, the Panthers were made to storm home against a willing two blues outfit that led 28-16 midway through the second stanza.
In front of a growing crowd that streamed through the gates ahead of the NRL clash between Penrith and Canberra, Jeremy Gordon lifted his side over the line with two late tries while laying on another to secure a stirring 38-28 win.
In total, Gordon scored three tries in the Raiders-Panthers curtain-raiser - taking his individual tally to six in the last two games against Willie Heta’s Hawks.
"They stunned us. We were on the ropes there, but a couple of late tries got us home,” Gordon said.
The gripping 10-point win was in stark contrast to the last time the two sides met, Panthers running away 72-12 victors at Pride Park in Orange.
Heta was confident the enormous turnaround – produced without gun fullback Jed Kennedy and props Arty Shead and Sia Nemani – will hold his side in good stead as it mounts a run for the top five.
“I'm pretty happy with the effort, it's unfortunate we didn't get the win,” Heta said.
Hawks shot out of the blocks in the first half, tries to Brett Morgan and Jordan Baker gifting the visitors a 10-0 lead.
Panthers hit back through Gordon’s first at the 13-minute mark and from there enjoyed the majority of the running.
Tries to former Hawk Kyle Byrnes and then Claude Gordon propelled the hosts to a 16-12 lead, a Heta penalty goal the only points for Hawks after that stunning start.
As they did in the first, though, Hawks again rocketed out of the blocks in the second half.
Three tries in the opening 15 minutes raced the two blues to a 28-16 lead in what seemed like the blink of an eye. But Gordon didn’t want a bar of that.
Playing in the halves in the absence of Doug Hewitt, Gordon slipped through a gap in the 58th minute to score before Bradyn Cassidy found the line two minutes late and then Gordon scored the try of the game.
Grubbering for his winger, Kade Barrow regathered before finding his brother Jye back on the inside. He looked to be stumbling to the line before passing back on the inside to Gordon to complete his hat-trick.
It was a six-minute period that turned what was a 12-point deficit into a 34-28 advantage.
Gordon laid on another try inside the final 10 minutes, this time to Kade Barrow, to put the icing on the win.