THE under 11 Lithgow Storm tried their best against a solid Bathurst Panthers squad who are one win away from from a perfect season after booking their place in the Group 10 Junior Rugby League grand finals on Saturday.
Panthers posted a 40-12 win over Lithgow Storm at Jack Arrow Oval in their semi-final.
With their regular season game against Storm snowed out, the minor premiership winning Panthers were a little unsure what to expect in their must-win semi-final.
They soon learned that Storm prop Curtis Brown was a player to watch as, after copping three head-high tackles, he charged over from a penalty tap. Mitch Lane converted to make it 6-0.
But from the next set Babbage crossed and when a smart Carter kick in behind the line set the fullback up for his second, Panthers had the lead.
It was 12-6 at quarter-time and it took a brilliant covering tackle from Carter on Storm's Brodie Carter to keep it that way. The Panthers halfback made a second try-saver on Lane later in the quarter too.
Riley Hall scored for Panthers and Lowan Francis for Storm to make it 18-12 at half-time and at that stage the Lithgow side, who finished the regular season in fourth, were thinking about an upset.
That task got harder for Storm in the third quarter as Carter and Babbage once again combined for a try, the fullback winning the race to the ball after the halfback put in a nice grubber.
Rory Elphick converted to make it 24-12 with a quarter to play.
It was a quarter which belonged to Panthers.
Carter made a brilliant 45 metre run down the right wing to score four minutes into the final period before smart work from Freya Hodges, diving over the line from dummy-half, took the score to 34-12.
As the clock ticked inside the final minute Panthers' Leon Mokaraka made a strong charge to carry the ball deep into Storm's half.
Carter then crossed for his second try and Hodges converted to put the final score at 40-12.
Panthers will meet Cowra in next Saturday's grand final after the young Magpies posted a 28-12 win over Orange CYMS Green. Nate Gunn and Leo Frazer both scored twice for the victors.