THIRROUL finished their 2020 campaign with a victory but fell short of a Presidents Cup finals berth, with Hills District edging them out of fourth spot on for and against.
The Butchers copped an early scare against Wentworthville on Saturday night, finding themselves down 12-0 and heading towards a final round boil-over. They steadied through back to back tries to halfback Jack Payne to get back within two at the break.
They took the lead through Daniel Payne eight minutes after the resumption and pushed further ahead through Tom Simpson. Payne put a stamp on the performance with his third try to put a 24-12 win to bed and put the onus on Hills to defeat Dubbo CYMS on Sunday.
However, CYMS couldn't produce the upset with Hills grabbing a comfortable 44-4 win to leapfrog the Butchers into fourth spot on points differential.
It ends a campaign that had its highlights, and a few near misses, but coach Jarrod Costello saying he couldn't have asked anything more of his side through the gruelling nine-week tournament.
"I was really happy to finish with the win we did, Wentworthville threw a lot at us early on but we ended up getting ourselves back into the game and scoring 24 unanswered points," Costello said
"On the season, if you look at how the cards fell we had seven days to get ready for a competition of this calibre. I'm really proud of the way the boys adapted and the way they represented the club.
"They gave a really good account of themselves and it says a lot about their character and the fabric and culture of the club. It's as proud as I've been of a group of guys.
"They worked hard, gave it everything they had. We were in every game we played and I was really proud to be head coach this year."
It wasn't such a good afternoon for Wests on Saturday. The injury-hit Devils headed into their clash with North Sydney a slim chance of snatching a finals berth but were never really in the match, going down 44-0.
It was anything but an indication of the Devils performance through the campaign, spending the bulk of it in the top four before injuries started to bite.
It left coach Pete McLeod singing largely from the same sheet as Costello, praising his players for leaping into the unknown.
"I'm really proud of the club for getting a team in the field this year, we fielded four teams, all the players played for nothing," McLeod said.
"There are clubs around that are paying so there was an option for them to go an play somewhere else but they decided to put on the jersey for nothing. That's that's never happened in the 70 years of our footy club so I couldn't be prouder of them.
"We assembled a really strong squad at the start of the tournament, we ended up with a heap of injuries at the back end but the boys fronted up every week. It was a tough last couple of weeks but they showed a lot of character.
"We had a bit of a look at life outside the Illawarra for all of us. Certainly in future playing is Sydney is an option for Wests."
In Illawarra Open Age football, Thirroul and Avondale locked in a grand final showdown with a round to spare with big wins.
The Butchers ran in 60 unanswered points against Helensburgh, while Avondale ran out 40-20 winners over a resurgent Dapto.
It locks them into the top two spots on the ladder and will make their matches this coming weekend - rescheduled round-one fixtures - a tune-up for both sides heading into the decider on Sunday week.
Both will like their chances having both suffered their lone defeats of the season at the hands of the other. Elsewhere, Corrimal ran out handy 72-12 winners over Wests.