It’s been a long, hard road for the defending premiers in the Group 10 season so far, and it isn’t going to get any easier as the elimination matches continue.
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The most recent roadblock between them and a chance to defend their crown is one of the season’s best, the Bathurst Panthers.
Although the Panthers finished second on the ladder, and only missed out on the top spot due to Orange CYMS massive point difference, they struggled in the qualifying final.
Bundled down into the first semi-final by the Oberon Tigers, the Panthers may come out flying in an effort to wipe clean the ignominy of the home loss.
The Dragons, and head coach Pete Hickman, are eager to play spoiler to the Bathurst outfit again however, with all signs pointing to a close and interesting match-up.
The first time the two teams met in the regular season, the Panthers routed Mudgee in a 56 to 26 win.
The next time they clashed, it was the Panthers with the spoils again, although this time just 32 to 10.
Hickman can see the gap closing, and knows this time they can take it to them, especially with the momentum of the big win last week.
“Really looking forward to this game now, Panthers have beaten us both times this year, but it will come down to who wants it more,” Hickman said.
“They’ll be smarting after losing to the Tigers, so we’ll really have to be on our guard and play a really good semi-final football to get the results.”
Kurt Gudgeon may be the only exclusion of the winning squad due to a long-term injury, but that remains to be seen.
The semi-final also has an interesting match-up – Kade Barrow is the current leading try-scorer, notching 17 so far, but behind him on the leaderboard is Lee Hicks with 15.
With the two most lethal finishers in the competition squaring up, it could come down to who outscores the other to book a spot in the preliminary final.
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