In the Gladiator movie, one of the most famous lines was when Proximus (played by Oliver Reed) gave the best advice he could to the Gladiator Maximus (Russell Crowe): “Win the crowd!”
Well, that’s exactly what the Oberon Tigers did in their valiant defeat at the hands of Orange CYMS last Sunday, going down 23-22 in a nail-biter.
For 74 minutes of the game, the Tigers led the CYMS outfit. From the opening two minutes, the Tigers were roaring and their intent was there for all to see.
A CYMS error off the kick-off gave Luke Branighan the opportunity to showcase why the Tigers were worthy grand final contenders. Branighan quickly switched the play and Anton Wereta was able to nudge a kick in-goal for the rampaging Tui Oloapu to pounce and draw first blood.
From the restart, crowd favourite Abel Lefaoseu surged into CYMS territory and before the Orange side could recover, Branighan had nursed another kick to the corner for a determined Tyler Hughes to post Oberon’s second try in five minutes to extend the lead to 10-0.
You just had to be there to witness the Tigers support on the day. Three-quarters of a packed Wade Park were willing the Oberon boys on!
CYMS were struggling to take any territory off the Tigers, with their big guns, such as Group 10 Player of the Year Chris Bamford, contained in the early exchanges by three or four swarming Oberon defenders.
Halfway through the opening stanza, Oberon had CYMS under pressure and Branighan, leading by example, took on the defence close to the line to step off his left foot and muscle over to take the score out to an unthinkable 14-0, sending the crowd into raptures. CYMS were simply stunned.
After a 40/20 kick from Branighan, the Tigers were straight back on the attack. With 14 minutes left in the half, the Tigers supporters were on high alert for another try as Oberon attacked the line.
But CYMS weren’t going to roll over, and their dangerous centre, Jo Lasagavibau, pounced on an Oberon error to tear off downfield to link up with speedster Tom Satterthwaite to post CYMS’ first points.
The try seemed to ignite CYMS and, buoyed at 14-4, they raised the tempo of their game. But the Tigers fought fire with fire to grind their way out of the danger zone.
Hooker Luke Carpenter, as he has done all year, took advantage of a lapse in the Orange defence and scooted off on a 30 metre race to the tryline.
On the hill, around the ground and in the stands the Tigers army were in full voice as Oberon took a commanding 18-4 lead.
As often is the case, the dominant performance of one team isn’t reflected on the scoreboard. With the clock ticking down, Orange’s Bamford smashed through the Tigers’ wall and sent Sam Hill on his way to score and reduce the half-time deficit to 18-8.
The sheds from both teams couldn’t have looked any different. Oberon’s Branighan was measured and calm, while CYMS’ Sullivan was giving his players a right royal spray.
With CYMS looking to mount a comeback, it was the crowd that made the difference. With most at the the ground chanting “TIGERS, TIGERS”, the Oberon boys lifted to meet each challenge that CYMS mounted.
Oberon’s Trent Rose had the crowd on their feet when he guided a clever grubber kick at full speed for Jackson Brien to score the first try of the second half. With one hand on the trophy, Oberon advanced to a lead of 22-8.
Most in the crowd were of the opinion that CYMS would struggle in the back end of the second half, such was Oberon’s dominance to that point in the game. However, Sullivan had different plans and engineered a blueprint to get his team back in the contest.
With 20 minutes remaining, a desperate Sullivan looked to utilise the footwork and blinding speed of Lasagavibau and Satterthwaite against a tiring Oberon defence.
With the help of a 6-0 penalty count in an 11-minute period, the Tigers had no more petrol in the tank and CYMS were able to lock the scores up at 22-apiece with six minutes to go.
The crowd were desperately urging their Tigers’ heroes on but it was not to be as CYMS potted a field goal with three minutes remaining to claim the 2017 title at 23-22.
Oberon Tigers’ player presentation night will be held on Saturday, September 23 at the Leagues Club commencing at 6pm. We’d love to have all of our sponsors and supporters help celebrate a great season. Details to follow.
The Oberon players and committee would like to thank our very loyal sponsors and supporters, and can assure you that we will go one better next year.
Finally, sometimes victory without glory is not victory at all. Be proud, Oberon.
Go the Tiges!