By BRENDAN CRABB
IN A FITTING finale to the South Coast Group 7 Rugby League’s centenary season, Gerringong Lions has won a golden point thriller over Warilla-Lake South Gorillas to clinch the 2013 first grade title.
Two Brad Davidson field goals – one of them with three seconds remaining in regular time – gave the Lions a stirring 14-13 victory in Sunday’s grand final at Nowra Showground.
Despite being a scrappy, penalty-riddled affair at times, both clubs saved arguably their most bruising exchanges for the last game of the year.
The match was the third decider within four seasons between the two proud clubs and the Lions’ second title from four consecutive grand finals.
Gerringong won by a point in 2010, the Gorillas thumped them in 2011, while they lost by two points to Albion Park-Oak Flats last season.
Lions coach Mick Cronin acknowledged his side’s recent history of close results in grand finals, while praising his players’ commitment and perseverance.
He said as Davidson kicked the first field goal, he knew it was successful by the reaction of those around him.
“They’re a tough side; they’re not a huge sideand I’m not sure they get enough credit,”he said.
“Even when they looked like they were down today, they hung in there and got the result.
“They treat every side with the same respect.
“We’re going through a good patch with young players coming through.
“All bar three players today played Under-18s for Gerringong.”
Davidson, again filling in at halfback while Rixon Russell slotted into fullback, also took home Man of the Match honours.
The teams jostled for position early, feeling their way a little nervously into the staccato-paced affair.
First points of the day came in the 19th minute, when Warilla hooker Beau Sewell latched onto a miracle off-load from Aaron Henry in heavy traffic and crashed over under the posts.
Both sides peppered each other’s try-line to no avail, frustration visibly creeping into the game.
Lions winger Taylor Hudson’s acrobatic display – which would have attained a high score in the Olympics – reeled in Davidson’s cross-field bomb, before passing to Corey Mulhall to touch down.Peter Cronin’s conversion leveled the scores.
A penalty during the next set of tackles gave the minor premiers a valuable piggy-back up-field.
They went back-to-back when Michael Brown crossed and headed to the break ahead 12-6.
The Battle of the Jungle raged on - its error rate largely attributable to the brutal contact.
Something had to give,and a glut of possession finally paid dividends for the Gorillas just past the hour mark.
Skipper Aaron Henry’s strength and skill found Craig Nolan in a gap, who streaked over from close range and converted to level the scores.
Nolan slotted a one-pointer with eight minutes left, and appeared they may get home afterturning the desperate Lions away.
However, Davidson’s first field goal from 30 metres out sent it into extra-time.
After a few unsuccessful field goal attempts from the Gorillas, three minutes into the additional period Davidson booted a second, 35-metre one-pointer to break Warilla’s collective hearts.
An understandably dejected Warilla coach Peter Hooper acknowledged the game’s sheer physicality.
“It’s two proud clubs going at one another, and they didn’t disappoint,” he said.
“There wouldn’t have been anyone who walked into the ground who walked away disappointed (with the quality of the game).”
Lions skipper Ryan Staples was proud of his charges for not conceding defeat at any point during the entire 80 minutes.
“It could have gone either way, it was that tough,” he said.
“Both sides deserved the win.
“We keep building each year, and blokes keep turning up.”
Gerringong 14 (Corey Mulhall, Michael Brown tries; Peter Cronin two goals; Brad Davidson 2 field goals) defeated Warilla 13 (Beau Sewell, Craig Nolan tries; Nolan 2 goals and field goal).
Reserve Grade Grand Final- Warilla-Lake South Gorillas 18 d Gerringong Lions 10
WARILLA-Lake South has secured their first Group 7 Rugby League reserve grade premiership since 2010, downing Gerringong 18-10 in Sunday’s grand final.
The scores were locked at 10-all at half-timein a physical, exciting arm-wrestle before Warilla finally went over the top to score the win.
It looked ominous when in just the fourth minute,ball movement slicker than a bankrobber’s escape plan was finished off by Gorillas centre Jake Flew.
The Lions responded swiftly, hooker Blair Overton making a line break and finding Isaac Russell backing up for 6-all.
A Josh Maude four-pointer extended Warilla’s buffer,but Daniel Tough’s sin-binning shortly before the break afforded Gerringong a one-man advantage.
Seconds afterwards, centre Chad Gordon punished the Gorillas for their indiscretions with a try.
The hard-fought tussle continued after the resumption.
Therefore, it wasn’t until the midway point of the second stanza that back-rower Shaun Baulch was the beneficiary of a lovely pass fromhalfback Josh Maude.
The conversion made it 16-10, and despite making a few mistakes coming out of trouble the Lions’ defence grimly hung on.
Just when it appeared that Warilla had a firm grip on the ascendancy, a spate of penalties in rapid succession put Gerringong right on the attack.
They were unable to cash in at the money end of the field though; the Gorillas’ scramble defence keeping their line intact.
Physical defence also helped turn the rampaging Lions away.
A Nathan Mackinnon penalty goal with less than three minutes left on the clock ensured Warilla were triumphant.
Unfortunately for Gerringong, the result means they have had one win from three consecutive grand final appearances.
Warilla’s Trent Large was named Man of the Match.
Warilla-Lake South 18 (Jake Flew, Josh Maude, Shaun Baulch tries, Nathan Mackinnon three goals) defeated Gerringong 10 (Isaac Russell, Chad Gordon tries, Blair Overton goal).
Under 18s Grand Final Kiama Knights 26 d Berry Magpies 10
Kiama Knights enjoyed a Group 7 Rugby League premiership double on Sunday, scoring an upset26-10 grand final win over Berry to take Under-18s honours.
The Knights led the minor premiers 14-10 at the break at Nowra Showground.
Berry opened their account in the seventh minute after a massive charge by prop Balien Rosz and Mitch McGlynn backed up, after they kept the ball alive and the fullback had too much speed and footwork to be reined in.
The Magpies appeared to be punching holes through the ruck almost at will,but a deft Daniel Martin grubber found open pastures, Corey Grigg pouncing on the crumbs.
Kiama’s left-edge attack troubled the opposition all day andCameron Cornell extended Knights the buffer.
Just seconds after a Berry try was disallowed,the Knights went left again and Cornell bagged his second.
The Magpies responded immediately via Marcus Borg, going to the sheds trailing by just four points.
Both outfits had their attacking opportunities, but were unable to capitalise early.
Mitch Boles booted a penalty goal, andfrom the next set of six went straight through the middle, before putting Matt Morris over.
With 11 minutes left, the Knights sealed the winvia a four-pointer to Man of the Match Vaughn Thistlethwaite.
Unfortunately for Berry, the result means they were unable to break a 30-year drought between Under-18s premierships.
Kiama 26 (Cameron Cornell 2, Matt Morris, Corey Grigg, Vaughn Thistlethwaite tries, Mitch Boles 3 goals) defeated Berry 10 (Mitch McGlynn, Marcus Borg tries, Rory McCall goal).
Women’s League Tag Kiama 12 defeated Nowra-Bomaderry 10
KIAMA have exacted their revenge for last year’s heart-breaking last-ditch Group 7 Rugby League Women’s League Tag grand final loss.
In a replay of the 2012 season decider,the Knights,the season’s minor premiersdefeated Nowra-Bomaderry 12-10.
Nowra led 6-4 at the oranges in a highly entertaining contest whereby the ascendancy changed hands on several occasions.
Jets skipper Belinda Chittleborough opened the scoring in just the fifth minute, Talia Atfield converting for 6-0. Erin Guy showed enormous speed to cross out wide to cut the deficit to two points.
Kiama took the advantage when Kristi Pan’s evasiveness netted her a four-pointer.
Just moments later,Atfield’s grubber kick ricocheted about like a pinball, before regathering in heavy traffic to go ahead.
Player of the Match Talarah Bell then scored the match-winner with 11 minutes remaining, presenting Kiamawith their second League Tag title.
Kiama 12 (Talarah Bell, Erin Guy, Kristi Pan tries) defeated Nowra-Bomaderry 10 (BelindaChittleborough, Talia Atfield tries, Atfield goal).