COLLEGIANS booked the first spot in this year's decider, but coach Nathan Fien was left with no shortage of headaches following his side's 28-12 win over Thirroul in Sunday's major semi-final.
The Dogs led 14-6 at halftime on the back of tries to Paul Roberts and Jake Fitzgerald and ran in two tries to one in the second half after absorbing a mountain of pressure at their own end of the park.
It wasn't without drama, with the Dogs finishing the match with 12 men after hooker Brodie Rigg was sent off with five minutes remaining for spitting at the opposition.
It came after he was initially sin-binned for reacting to Butchers prop Damian Sironen's shot on Roberts as he kicked the ball. Roberts and Rigg both reacted, the latter earning an early shower and likely the attention of the match review panel.
It'll ensure the week off won't be a breezy one for the Dogs, but Fien was left non-plussed by the hit on Roberts that went unpenalised.
"I'll have to have a better look at the tackle but I thought it was definitely a reckless," Fien said.
"Paulie gives a bit [out], we know that. He plays it on the line and pushes things a bit but if that tackle was made on any other halfback in the comp I'm thinking there'd be more scrutiny on it.
"Rigger was doing what he thought was right and that was what the boys were about today, they had each other's back and that's all you need from a team sometimes."
Star back-rower and skipper Blake Phillips also left the field midway through the first half with an ankle syndesmosis injury that will have him racing the clock to be fit for the decider in a fortnight.
"There's definitely some things to think about, hopefully we'll know a little bit more about Butchy [Phillips] this week and hopefully he'll be right," Fien said.
"It was a massive blow. It's not just what he can do on the field, he's really the heart and soul of our footy side, he's our captain and he leads from the front week in week out.
"We'll have our fingers crossed that it's not too bad and the medical staff can get him right. I'm glad we've got the two weeks to do that because I don't think he'd be any chance next week."
The win showed all the defensive grit they've built their season on, withstanding a second-half onslaught from the Butchers and still finding the way to counterpunch through late tries to Josh Dowel and Jiye Ellis.
"It was one of the best days in footy that I've ever been involved in and I've been around footy for a long, long time," Fien said.
"The way we were able to absorb so much pressure on our own try-line, especially in that second half, and still be able to get control of the game when it really mattered was something pretty special.
"We're going to have to be better performance-wise in a couple of weeks' time. We need to navigate a few things that were thrown up today but, whatever happens, the 17 guys who take the field will put their best foot forward no doubt. "