GROUP SEVEN RUGBY LEAGUE
Flamboyant winger Chad Lisch took centre stage with a stunning try double to spark Warilla to a 26-16 victory over Gerringong in yesterday's major semi-final at Michael Cronin Oval.
The Gorillas defiantly erased a 12-4 half-time deficit, out-scoring the home side four tries to one in the second half to be the first team through to the grand final.
"The job's half-done," Warilla coach Peter Hooper said.
"There's some tired boys in the sheds right now, but come grand final day we'll be ready to go."
Neither side was too pleased with the performance of referee Matt Treneman.
Nick McInerney refereed Saturday's minor semi-final and probably is the favourite for the grand final.
Gerringong drew first blood yesterday with back-rower Michael Brown's third-minute try and the score stayed 6-0 until Gorillas five-eighth Jesse Dee powered over with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Lions regained the upper hand with centre Corey Mulhall's try, which Joel Roberts converted for a 12-4 half-time lead.
Needing to score first in the second half, the Gorillas got their wish when back-rower Keiran Rankmore crashed over out wide.
That set the stage for Lisch to leave his stamp on the game.
He scored his first from a cross-kick, making a clean catch above his head before cutting back infield and touching down to make tie the score at 12.
Craig Nolan's first successful conversion gave Warilla their first lead, but Lions hooker Nathan Ford was in the right place at the right time to dive over five metres in from the left corner post. Roberts missed the conversion but the Lions took the lead.
They were on the verge of wrapping up the game moments later when they were attacking 20m out from the visitors' line.
But Warilla centre Blake Colgan made his most important tackle of the season, nailing Lions captain Ryan Staples with a perfectly-timed shot which jolted the ball loose.
Lisch scooped it up and ran almost 90m down the left sideline for his second try, but not before he waved a cheeky goodbye to chasing Gong prop Adam Thompson, a gesture that the Lions won't quickly forget.
"We'll talk about that at training," Hooper said.
"I'm not a big fan of that because he would've looked silly if he'd dropped it."
The Gorillas put the icing on the cake when they scored the best try of the game in the 79th minute, moving the ball through many hands before winger Jarryd Pepper finished the sequence out wide.
"They're two tough football sides," Gong coach Mick Cronin said.
Warilla's 11th straight win was set up by another powerful display by their big forward pack.
"We were fortunate enough that our bench can come on and it allows us to give blokes a good spell, and then Kieran Rankmore comes back out fresh and scores a try," Hooper said.
"We lacked a bit of discipline in that first half and we turned momentum away from us. We didn't execute as well as we could've in that first half, but you can only execute as well as the defence lets you, and Gerringong keep turning up.
"I felt at half-time that if we came out and delivered what we've done in the last few months that we'd get the coin. We're a pretty fit side and I knew we'd finish strongly."
Hooper wouldn't be drawn into predicting a winner of the final between Gerringong and Jamberoo, saying he'd sit on the fence.
"We'll have a bit of a hit-out together next weekend and come and have a look at who we'll be playing the following week," he said.