A Damien Cook-inspired Illawarra Cutters exacted some sort of revenge on Wentworthville, scrapping to a last-round win over the team which tipped them out of the finals race.
Having watched on helplessly after the Magpies stunned table-topping Cronulla a week earlier to punch their finals ticket, the Cutters clung to a morale-boosting 30-28 victory at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
It meant the second-year side finished just one point shy of the finals picture as coach Paul McGregor lamented a season of missed opportunities.
Forced to use more than 50 players throughout the year as injuries decimated St George Illawarra's top squad, McGregor said the Cutters would be better for the experience. They established half-time leads in nine matches losing contests in a frustrating season.
"I haven't actually enjoyed one game this year because they've all come down to the last 10 minutes," McGregor said.
"The club is still only very young and two years into it we're still learning as an administration and a group of men.
"Wenty had everything to play for, including momentum into the finals, and we had nothing to play for, and to come away with a win is good. We played against a side that knocked us out of the top eight and beat them, so it is a little bit [of a consolation]."
Cook was at the heart of everything good about the Cutters, scoring two outstanding individual tries with shows of speed and strength and laying on another. Reverting to fullback for the final two months of the season, the Helensburgh junior made his NRL debut earlier this year as a back-up hooker in the Dragons' squad.
"We had a fullback playing halfback, a hooker playing fullback and a front-rower playing back row, and since [Cook's] shift he's probably been our best and most dominant player," McGregor said.
Like most of their matches this year, the Cutters traded tries with their opponents in an error-riddled first half and took a two-point lead into half-time.
Cecil MacKenzie crossed twice for the visitors in the opening 40 minutes, but once Cook got his second early in the second half the Cutters extended their margin to eight points.
Wentworthville set up a tense last 15 minutes after Pat Mataele scored, but the Cutters again withstood a late barrage from a finals-bound rival.