It’s big cats versus dogs

EXPERIENCE: Shannon Felsch is one of a host of Bulldogs second grade forwards who have been part of the top grade side in recent seasons. He and his team-mates will play Orange City for a spot in the grand final tomorrow in Orange. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 062312cbdogs6RUGBY UNION

IN a final that was destined to happen at some stage, Bathurst Bulldogs will head to Orange tomorrow to face minor premiers Orange City in the Central West Rugby Union second grade grand final qualifier.

The two sides finished clearly ahead of the rest of the competition at the conclusion of the regular season, City gaining top spot by virtue of a superior for-and-against.

However, that will mean little come kick-off, with Bulldogs having sole bragging rights this season with two wins in their encounters so far.

Bulldogs co-coach Michael Burgess is expecting another tough encounter against a quality side.

“The two games we’ve had with them have both been very tight and I don’t expect it to be much different this time around,” he said.

“The last time we met them we won 17-15, but they did have a shot at a penalty just before full-time that would have given them the win, so there’s not much between the two teams.

“With their first grade side being so strong at the moment their seconds have a lot of players who in other years would be automatic selections in firsts and who would be playing top grade with clubs not quite as strong. They have some real quality in their team.”

Bathurst too have a handful of experienced first graders, particularly in their forward pack which on paper looks to be an obvious strength.

The likes of Dane Fitzpatrick, Shannon Felsch, Michael Weekes and Shaun Healey, as well as Izaak Breen have all had plenty of time in the first 15 in other years and indeed in 2012 in some cases. Their ability to control the speed of the game tomorrow will be crucial.

“There is a nice contrast there between them and the back line, the backs are generally fairly young with blokes like Jordy Ward and Harry Phillips who have come up from colts this year,” Burgess explained.

“It really helps around finals time in these big matches against strong sides to have players who’ve been there before and played at a high level, especially when you get into tight situations towards the back end of a game.

“Ray Lange was outstanding at flyhalf last weekend too, the way he organises the play with his experience as well as his kicking game.

“Harry Phillips had been at five-eighth and Ray took over last week with Harry being away, he comes back in this week at fullback which will help us out even more.”

On paper it looks as though City and Bulldogs are the two most likely candidates to battle it out in the decider in two weeks’ time, but the Bulldogs coach says that either of CSU or Dubbo ‘Roos, contending in today’s minor semi, are still a chance.

“It was two tries apiece between us and Dubbo last week so there isn’t much separating them, and of what I’ve seen of CSU they’re a typical uni side who are quick and throw it around. On a dry track they could really turn it on,” Burgess said.

“We want to win this week and go straight through because either of those teams would be extremely tough to beat next week.”

Bulldogs and City do battle at 1.30pm at Pride Park tomorrow.

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