EIGHTEEN down, two to go.
Avondale finished with a remarkable 18-0 record with a determined 45-12 win over Tech-Waratahs on Saturday, to take their place among the great Illawarra rugby teams in history.
But for Wombats coach Murray McDonald, the job is only just beginning.
Having known they would meet second-placed Wollongong Vikings in a qualifying final for some weeks, a grand final place in on the line.
McDonald praised the team’s attitude with the added pressure of finishing the season unbeaten.
“It was a really good tough win, just the kind of game you want to play before finals,” he said.
“Tech played well, they certainly turned up and tested us.
“This is one of the better teams I’ve been involved in, when they get it right, they’re just about the complete package.
“But we can’t afford to be complacent now, we know Vikings are a very good team and we’ll have to be very good to beat them.”
Avondale marched to a 19-nil advantage, setting the platform to rotate players in a more open second half.
While it was a stunning achievement for the Wombats, it was an otherwise predictable round of results for the other finals contenders.
Vikings prevailed 27-12 after leading Shoalhaven 15-nil at the break.
Bowral thumped Campelltown 41-10, while University had to lift after half-time to beat Kiama 45-25.
The Mallee Bulls trailed 15-14 after 40 minutes.
Flankers Ryan Witherdin and Bailey Ward, outside backs Daniel Ward, George Rixon, Johnathon Lally, Reuben Thompson and reserve Alphonso Pyne each scored tries. The reigning premiers, University meet Bowral in an elimination showdown on Saturday.
In Saturday’s other game, Shamrocks, beaten in last year’s grand final extra man controversy, finished their campaign off with a 36-29 win over Camden.
The Illawarra rugby grand final is held at WIN Stadium on September 2, with the preliminary final scheduled on Saturday week at Vikings Rugby Ground.
The Blueys are the only team to have denied Avondale bonus points this year, with the Wombats picked up 88 of a possible 90.
Avondale and Vikings will have finals representatives in all three grades.
- ILLAWARRA RUGBY
Qualifying final: AVONDALE v VIKINGS at Ocean Park
Elimination final: BOWRAL v UNIVERSITY at Camden Rugby Ground.
- Grounds TBC