Wests will "throw everything" at a final-round showdown with Collegians next week, but Dapto will be running around in a dead rubber after Corrimal notched their first win in two seasons to send the Canaries out of the final race with a whimper.
After a dismal 1-7 start to the season, the Canaries kicked a finals fairytale into gear with four straight wins, including heavyweight scalps Thirroul, Wests and Collegians heading into last week's clash with De La Salle.
De La halted the run, but the Canaries were pronounced favourites to knock off Corrimal on Saturday and set-up a fourth-placed playoff with Thirroul in the final round.
The Cougars had other ideas, conceding the first try before running in five back to back, before bagging another late to notch a breakthrough win 36-18 at Ziems Park.
Fourth-placed Thirroul went down in game fashion to the Devils on Saturday, leaving the Canaries still just one win adrift with a game to play, but with a differential almost 200 points worse than the Butchers, the Canaries campaign is effectively over.
It was a dramatic penultimate round with De La Salle going top of the table with a 24-6 win over Collegians, with the Dogs now vulnerable to dropping out of the top two should they lose to Wests in the final round.
Backing up will be tough for the Devils, who got home 18-10 over the Butchers in a brutal slugfest at Parrish Park. Having gone 1-4 heading into Saturday's war, with Pete McLeod's side now looking to head into the post-season on a three-game winning streak.
"That's been the talk, we lost four in a row, but to start of the year we won eight in a row too, so we have a good football team," McLeod said.
"We had injuries and suspensions and whatever happened through the middle of the year and we didn't play our best a few times. It was just about getting all the boys back together, setting a goal for the back end of the year and starting to do what we do well, which is take the games to teams and put pressure on teams.
"We feel like we've got a lot of footy in us and the message today was 'take the game to them'. Whether we've got the ball or whether we're in defence we wanted to take the game to them. We've got a strong side, we've got high aspirations for the season and it was a really good effort today.
"It was a high quality game of footy played by two proud clubs that have played a lot of games against each other at this time of year. Thirroul have proved over the years that, when the semi-finals roll around, they're definitely tough to beat, so to beat them in August in a tight game like that, we're really happy with it.
It leaves them one win behind Collegians heading into a final-round showdown that will determined who gets two bites at the final cherry.
"We throw everything at this weekend's game because at this time of year you want to be playing your best footy," McLeod said.
"We're playing a good strong club, we're paying Collegians. When Wests play Collegians it doesn't matter it it's round one or a grand final, it's going to be a tough game.
"Our boys are really pumped for next week and we're gonna throw everything at it and see how, how far we can go in this comp."
Lachlan Hurst had a first-half double after shifting to fullback, with Brock Sepulveda also getting across as the Devils shout to a 14-4 lead, though a double to Steve Marsters kept the Butchers within four at the break.
Points were hard to come by in a second-half arm wrestle, with a gem of a long ball from Justin Rodrigues putting Sepulveda across for his second try that proved enough to get the hosts home.
The Cougars boil-over win locked in the Butchers' finals spot despite the defeat having gone down to Collegians at the death a week earlier, coach Jarrod Costello says his doesn't want to head into the finals on the back of three straight losses.
"I thought we were OK, I thought we were really tough, we completed really high," Costello said.
"It was a really physical game through the middle and both sides went at each other hard. There'll be some sore boys tomorrow. There's a few things we need to improve on but also some good signs.
"Fingers crossed we get the benefits in the finals for having to play these harder games with a fair bit on the line [leading in]. It's disappointing not to be able to get it done today, but full credit to Wests, they deserved their win today.
"I've seen enough throughout the year to know that it's there [for us]. We've just got to make sure we get it right at the right time of the year. The time's now. There's one game left so it's not about hoping that you find it at some stage. We need to find it now."
De La Salle are doing just that having strung together an impressive run of wins, with Saturday's 24-6 win over Collegians sending the Shire powerhouse to top spot on the ladder with only a final-round clash with Corrimal to come.
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