University kept their hopes alive of defending the Illawarra rugby premiership, as Vikings will rely on home comforts to take one more shot at Avondale.
The stakes are as high as ever in a Wollongong derby, the question of how to stop the Wombats can wait.
Bowral launched a stunning second half fightback, but it was all in vain, as University held on 32-29.
The Mallee Bulls had stormed to a 25-5 advantage at half-time in the neutral territory of Camden, but their lead was eroded, as Camden came within three without ever hitting the front.
The champions, ravaged by injury throughout the season, will have go via Vikings Rugby Ground to be on the WIN Stadium stage again.
Vikings had long since been booked to host the preliminary final, but it now becomes an added advantage, a rugby union cauldron as the Blueys look to qualify not one but three teams for the finals.
Coach Sean Barett and his men couldn’t prevent the Wombats from making it 19 in a row on Saturday.
Digging in during an intense second half, Avondale prevailing 36-20.
The Blueys had fought to within six, before a late try ensured Avondale’s unbeaten march to the grand final would not be halted.
Barrett remained upbeat about their premiership hopes.
“We did well in some areas,” he said. “There are a few things we need to do better if we are going to beat them, you’ve only got to beat them once.
“But there’s a long way to go, Uni have a lot of experience when it comes to finals, they showed what they are capable of last year.
“We just have to focus on playing at home on Saturday.”
A try nine minutes after half-time provided Avondale with a 13-point buffer, but there were some nervous moments to come, when play was stopped for a Wombats player suffering a neck and shoulder injury and attended to by medical staff.
He was later cleared of any serious injury, other than concussion and could still be part of the grand final campaign. Avondale’s streak means they can complete a perfect 20 victories for the season in a fortnight’s time, having collected 88 of a possible 90 points during the regular season.
- ILLAWARRA RUGBY
First grade: VIKINGS v UNIVERSITY (3pm)
Second grade: CAMDEN v BOWRAL (1.15pm)
Third grade: AVONDALE v VIKINGS (12pm)
Saturday, September 2
AVONDALE v Winner of preliminary final
WIN Stadium (3pm)