Two tries in the eight minutes before half-time has setup Illawarra’s Caldwell Cup victory over Central West at Warren on Sunday.
The Illawarriors led by three after 28 minutes, but went to the break with a 20-15 lead, before securing a 37-15 triumph.
No.8 and captain Paul Tuala said the success, having beaten Mid-North Coast in the semi-final 55-22, was almost three months in the making.
“Ten weeks ago, we set out a goal,” he said.
“To first of all bond. And funnily enough we didn’t bond until our last training.
“But it said a lot of our character … we got the win.”
The Illawarriors had several players including past representative players Jesse Roach, Andy Papworth and Aaron Louden along with Andre Itula, JP Nel and Todd Pearce unavailable before of injury.
Meanwhile, Illawarra beat Central Coast 38-22 in the third-placed playoff in the Colts under 19s division.
The opens overpowered Mid-North Coast, but it was a close tussle in the first halfback, before the Illawarriors had a man advantage with the Axemen’s halfback Tim Small was sin-binned.
Illawarra went to half-time leading 31-22, but losing halfback Tim Small to the sin-bin just before the break for a high tackle.
Then winger Aisake Tuevu was also yellow-carded, but somehow the Warriors held on, inspiring them to victory.
Wayne Ngatai, Jack Hobbs, Leighton Cowley and Tuala, were among their best, setting up their shot at the title.
Jacob Kara ran in two outstanding tries as flanker Takunda Chimwaza impressed with two tries.