THE two undefeated heavyweights of the Wallerawang Cup faced off on a sunny Oberon winter's day.
A big crowd had gathered to see if the Tigers could overcome the Cargo Heelers' champion side, which has dominated the Woodbridge Cup over the past few years. The Tigers emerged victors 28-18 in a really tough battle and, in doing so, secured the minor premiership.
The ladies' league tag side came up against a "white-hot" Cargo team that, up until this season, hadn't been defeated for two years. The scoreline of 48-0 wasn't an indication of the effort, heart and soul that the Oberon girls have put in this year.
THERE was no quarter given in the opening 10 minutes as both teams exchanged territorial advantage. The big Cargo men were fired up and the likes of Luke Christie-Johnston, Charlie Bailey and Lochie Gilmore had to stand and meet the challenge without regular "big boppers" Nathan Booth and Ty Simmonds, who were both unavailable.
The crowd sensed a close contest and, after an absorbing arm-wrestle, Josh Rivett broke the deadlock as he accelerated through the Cargo defence to score near the posts and convert his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Spurred on by Rivett's try, the Tigers lifted and were relentless as they gained field position and pounded the Cargo line. Hard-as-nails Oberon lock Charlie Bailey surged through the tough Cargo defence to capitalise on the pressure and extend the scoreline to 12-0. The Tigers were well and truly in control as both teams went for a drinks break. However, after the resumption of play, the Heelers jumped out of the blocks and upped their intensity.
Oberon coach Dallas Booth sensed the danger and brought young guns Jake Foley and Ryan Thompson into the fray. Both men are the future of the Tigers, and they quickly went about snuffing out a Heelers revival. After seeing off the Cargo threat, prolific try-scorer Jacob Howes crashed over to give the loyal crowd some breathing space as the Tigers took a commanding 16-0 lead.
But, on the stroke of half-time, the Heelers struck and managed to take advantage of a spilt bomb to claw back the deficit to 10 points.
Cargo emerged from the sheds at half-time a committed side. It was obvious that they had plenty of fight in them and weren't down for the count just yet. In a whirlwind, they posted another converted try to be trailing by just four.
Instead of panicking, Lochie Gilmore shredded the Cargo defence with a series of right foot steps on a long run to get Cargo backpedalling. From the ensuing play, Sam Gascoigne fired a long spiral pass out to big Dallas Booth with a full head of steam, who was never going to be denied a try. Rivett converted from the sideline and the Tigers were in front 22-12.
This Cargo team has absolutely no 'give up' in them and they came back hard at the home team. With the big crowd behind them, the Tigers met the challenge as their defence held firm. Shortly after, with the clock winding down, the Tigers worked their way upfield.
Once they were within striking distance of the Cargo line, they spun the ball wide to find a charging Howes, who grabbed his double for the day. A super conversion from Rivett looked like sealing the Heelers' fate as Oberon surged to a 28-12 lead with minutes remaining.
To their credit, Cargo managed to post a late converted try to let the home side know that they are ready and willing for a rematch if fate goes their way in the finals series.
On the back of the 28-18 victory, the Tigers secured the minor premiership. They have earned a week's rest before they host the winner of CSU and Cargo in the major semi on September 12.
SHANNON Foley's girls were looking to consolidate their third place on the table, but came up against a 'white-hot' Cargo outfit that went undefeated in 2018 and 2019 before entering the Wallerawang Cup competition.
The final scoreline of 48-0 would have seemed unlikely in the early exchanges as the Tigers matched their more highly credentialled opponents. Cargo scored first to take a 4-0 lead, but Katie Sutherland looked to have locked up the scoreline shortly after only to be denied as she was tagged a split second before placing the ball down.
The Tigers were playing as a unit against a team with superior speed and experience. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for speed, and Cargo possessed several flyers who were capable of long-range tries.
At the half-time mark, a shell-shocked and exhausted Tigers outfit were 30-0 down and Foley needed to regroup her brave team-mates. The resumption of play saw a plucky Brooke Webb make a long break to give Oberon an early attacking advantage. Cargo, however, had the weapons to neutralise any promising raids from the home side, as they were able to quickly mop up any breaks and half-breaks from the Tigers.
Despite the frenetic pace set by the Heelers, the Oberon girls didn't throw in the towel as Lourie Bailey and Ella Brien continually tested the visitors in a gritty display of determination.
This Saturday, September 5, the league tag team will fly the flag for Oberon as they travel to Orange's Wade Park to take on Kandos in a sudden death semi-final. The ladies need our support, and a win will see them back home on Saturday, September 12 alongside the men's side in our annual Can Assist round.