Central West defeats Illawarra in Caldwell Cup final at Tamworth

It took just three minutes for Central West to show their intent in Sunday's Caldwell Cup final.

After a strong scrum and forward running got the Blue Bulls in position, a simple shift to the left resulted in a try to hard-running centre Filisione Pauta.

After that, the Dean Oxley-coached side - which featured Parkes Boars rep Dan Ryan - didn't look back on its way to winning the NSW Country Rugby Union's ultimate prize.

The entire forward pack was immense in the win at Tamworth's Scully Park, setting the platform and allowing mercurial five-eighth Mahe Fangupo, a former Parkes Boar, to pull the strings and lead the way in the scintillating 45-21 victory over Illawarra.

"A lot of the boys have been trying to win this for many years so there was a lot of joy there," Central West captain Mark Baldwin said after the win.

"I can't speak highly enough of this group. I've been a part of a lot of teams and it's so enjoyable to be part of one like this. They're good blokes, there's no egos and we've come from all over the Central West.

"We gelled really well."

The victory capped off a massive weekend for Central West Rugby Union after the Blue Bulls' women's side had earlier won its championship final in equally dominant fashion.

The win in the men's decider was a hugely satisfying result for Central West after an injury-ravaged side was beaten by Illawarra in last year's Caldwell Cup decider.

This year's title win was never really in doubt during the weekend at Tamworth, as a comfortable 32-17 win over Mid North Coast on Saturday was followed by Sunday's blistering showing.

The Blue Bulls led 31-nil at halftime in the final, a double to Geurie Goats star Pauta the early highlight.

His second was a thing of beauty as he ripped through the Illawarra defence on halfway after a lovely inside ball from Fangupo, before finding Dubbo Kangaroo's Shaun McHugh out wide.

McHugh brilliantly threw a one-handed pass back inside to Pauta despite being surrounded by defence, leading to the easiest of finishes.

"It was just absolutely clinical in that first half," Baldwin said.

"There was not too many errors and we held the ball. It was an excellent half of footy.

"There was not much you could fault and it was a lot of fun to be a part of."

The second showing was nowhere near as crisp, the Blue Bulls bombed a number of try-scoring chances, but the damage had already been done.

Illawarra scored the first try of the second stanza to briefly hint at a comeback but that was as close as the defending premiers got as Central West continued to control proceedings despite Oxley ringing the changes.

McHugh, who barked orders the entire game and continually popped up all over the field, grabbed a deserved try while Bathurst Bulldogs' Peter Fitzsimmons grabbed his side's only other try in the second half.

Outside of Fangupo and McHugh, Pauta was a threat every time he ran the ball, captain Mark Baldwin and veteran Dave Jessiman didn't stop working, and the service provided by halfback Shahid Khalfan was exemplary all game.

The girls started it and we brought it home.

Mark Baldwin after the Central West double

The Harden star's work didn't go unnoticed as he capped off his first NSW Country Rugby Union Championships with the player of the tournament prize.

Khalfan and Fangupo worked together brilliantly in the first half of the decider, both having a hand in Pauta's opener while their ability to move the ball quickly kept the Blue Bulls on the front foot.

Fangupo set up the second try with a cross-field kick under pressure, and winger Joe Nash leapt brilliantly over his opposite winger and claimed it before running in to score.

Fangupo himself burrowed over soon after and when the Forbes Platypi hero laid one on a platter for Orange Emus' Lachie Harris the writing was well and truly on the wall.

Pauta still had time to gran his highlight reel-worthy effort shortly before the break, and after that is was just a case of maintaining composure.

"It all started in our (pre-season) New Zealand trip and I think the success started there," Baldwin said after both the men's and women's squad spent a week overseas in March.

"We really enjoyed each other's company and learnt a lot and to now get two wins is awesome.

"The girls started it and we brought it home."

  • CENTRAL WEST 45 (Filisione Pauta 2, Joe Nash, Mahe Fangupo, Lachie Harris, Peter Fitzsimmons, Shaun McHugh tries; Ben Lenehan 5 conversions) defeated ILLAWARRA 21