Courageous Lions the pride of Gerringong

Gerringong five-eighth Patrick Cronin etched his name indelibly into Lions folklore with a match-winning field goal in the dying minutes of yesterday's Group Seven grand final against Warilla at Centenary Field.Moments after Lions winger Joel Roberts had nailed a sideline conversion to tie the game, Cronin banged over a drop-goal from 25m out to lift his side to a thrilling 21-20 triumph.Warilla five-eighth Chris Henry narrowly missed a field goal attempt with 60 seconds remaining and the full-time siren signalled the start of long-overdue celebrations for the Lions and their loyal throng of followers."It went right down to the wire and the boys really dug deep and hung in there well," Gerringong captain Ryan Staples said."We never felt like we were beaten. But we always think like that. We always hang in there."Gerringong's last premiership was 16 years ago, which also came at Warilla's expense at the same ground.They did it the hard way yesterday, building a 14-4 lead before falling behind 20-14 midway through the second half. But resilience and resourcefulness were Lions hallmarks throughout 2010 and they found a way to win when the chips were down against the Gorillas.Gerringong coach Mick Cronin was typically humble, claiming luck was on the Lions' side."We dropped the ball more in the second half today than we have in I don't know how many games," he said."We made a lot of mistakes in the second half. We could've been further ahead at half-time and in the end we were probably lucky to get away with a win."But I don't care where you play, if you don't get beaten in 13 weeks [since the end of the first round], it's a fair effort. We've gotta be very happy."Warilla started strongly, taking a 6-0 lead when Henry converted winger Dean Tungai's early try from the sideline.Jason White scored the Lions' first try in the 20th minute and centre Peter Cronin scored the first of his two tries soon after. Roberts' conversion made it 10-6 and the score didn't change before half-time.Roberts crossed for a try four minutes into the second half before Henry kicked a penalty goal to make it 14-8.Warilla captain Linken Hutchinson scored two tries in the next 20 minutes, with Henry's conversions giving the Gorillas a 20-14 lead.But the Lions would not be denied, with Peter Cronin powering his way over and Roberts ignoring intense sledging from Warilla supporters to connect sweetly with the conversion.Cronin then stepped up to kick the precious point, leaving the Gorillas to deal with their second grand final heartbreak in as many years."Our blokes were outstanding today," Warilla coach Peter Hooper said. "They didn't deserve it to end like that, but funny things happen in grand finals. What can you do? It hurts as much as it always does."The expectation wasn't on us this year to go anywhere because it's a younger side than last year's. But losing grand finals never gets any easier. It's an extremely hollow feeling."Hooper tipped his hat to the Lions. "Gerringong are a great club and they play for 80 minutes," he said. "It's not just the team, it's the entire club and the way they approach their footy."Full credit to them. They haven't been beaten since the last game of the first round, so they're worthy winners."Peter Cronin said the Lions never panicked when they were behind in the second half."I was a bit nervous because we were running out of time, but I didn't lose hope," the 21-year-old said. "I thought we could still win it. We just had to get back down their end and hold on to the ball and it worked out for us."We work for each other. That's how it's been all season. It's all about the team, not about any single player."Gerringong and most of its 4000 residents were in full party mode last night."It can't get much better," Peter said. "It's what we worked for all year and it's paid off. It's going to be big [celebration]. I'm glad we can repay their faith and support they had in us."Staples was also anticipating a blurry week."This party will be going for a few days," he said. "The whole town's behind us so it's good to do it for them."

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