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Wellington Cowboys defeat Bathurst Panthers in Premiers Challenge

The Wellington Cowboys put the "icing on the cake" on Sunday when downing Group 10 champions Bathurst Panthers in the Premiers Challenge.

The day, featuring the premiership winners from the Western Rams region, was a memorable one for Group 11 as Wellington's commanding 36-16 victory over Panthers followed on from success for Dubbo CYMS and the Forbes Magpies in league tag and under 18s respectively.

The Cowboys, a fortnight on from the drought-breaking grand final win over Dubbo CYMS, never trailed at any stage at Kennard Park on Sunday.

Wellington led 24-16 at the break and then turned on the style in the second half to claim the $10,000 prize and the title of the best in the west.

"Getting the job done against CYMS was the main goal but after that we reassessed and we knew we wanted to come out here, especially with the chance to host it, and send our crowd off," Cowboys coach Justin Toomey-White said.

"The boys really wanted to win this and it was just the icing on the cake."

Five-eighth Mason Williams was named man of the match by the Western Rams selection panel after the latest in a string of standout showings for the Cowboys while captain Aidan Ryan was unfortunate to miss out after an outstanding and lung-bursting performance.

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The hard-running winger scored two length of the field tries, the first of which saw him go more than 100m to score, and got through a huge amount of work in both attack and defence much to the delight of the Cowboys faithful.

"He's definitely played well and he has done all year," Toomey-White said.

"His tough carries coming out and he hasn't had to run those long lengths he did today but he did well."

For Panthers, captain-coach Doug Hewitt admitted his side struggled to get up for the game after the high of last weekend's gruelling and thrilling extra-time grand final win over Mudgee.

BEST OF THE BEST: The Cowboys with the silverware after Sunday's win over Panthers. Photo: CRL

BEST OF THE BEST: The Cowboys with the silverware after Sunday's win over Panthers. Photo: CRL

The Group 10 premiers of the past two years threatened to get back into Sunday's game on a couple of occasions and never stopped working but the toll last weekend, and the celebrations which followed, took was clear to see.

"You put everything you've got into a grand final and especially when they go for 90 minutes, it's hard to play any type of game the next week let alone against another champion side," the Panthers halfback said.

"The boys who came up all tried and you can't take that away from them but Wellington was ready for it. They had the extra week off which helped but full credit goes to those boys."

It marked the second successive year Panthers have lost the Premiers Challenge game after being thumped by the Forbes Magpies art home last season.

This time it was the Cowboys' who claimed glory after starting brightly in a game where both sides were missing a handful of regulars.

In an exact copy of the Cowboys' first try in the Group 11 grand final the hosts got on the board on Sunday via a Mac Dutfield try from close range following a lovely ball from Dennis Moran at dummyhalf.

Moran was involved again soon after, putting Travis Waddell over to set-up a 12-0 lead.

Panthers hit back through Nick Loader but when Ryan scooped up a kick in his own in-goal and beat a couple of defenders before going the length it put the hosts back in control.

I'm so proud. Not only of our team but our whole club and our whole town.

Justin Toomey-White

The sin-binning of Cowboys' powerhouse Daniel Stanley for striking allowed Panthers to work their way back but a try in the final minute of the first half for Wallace Bruce had the writing on the wall.

The Cowboys controlled the second half against a tiring Panthers, with a Will Lousick double and an 80m effort from a flying Ryan the highlights for the hosts.

"I'm so proud. Not only of our team but our whole club and our whole town," Toomey-White said after the win.

"We set the goals not only as a team but as a club and we lived up to them.

"We've still got some work to go but it comes from the president, the committee, and all the players involved and the supporters. It's a good year to be a Cowboy."

The Cowboys' win was made more impressive given they played the match with 16 men after Tristan Lumley suffered a calf injury in warm-up.

As well as Williams and Ryan, Dutfield and Waddell were also strong up front while young gun Stanley was near-unstoppable outside of his sin-binning.

Hewitt never stopped working for Panthers while Jake Betts was arguably his side's best, alongside Trent Hotham and rising star Griffiths.

  • WELLINGTON COWBOYS 36 (Will Lousick 2, Aidan Ryan 2, Mac Dutfield, Travis Waddell, Wallace Bruce tries; Mason Williams 4 conversions) defeated BATHURST PANTHERS 16 (Nick Loader, Jack Siejka, Noah Griffiths tries; Griffiths 2 conversions)

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