Perennial Group Seven heavyweights Gerringong Lions are the first team through to the grand final after a hard-fought 32-22 win over the Stingrays of Shellharbour at Flinders Field on Sunday.
The win capped a great day for the Lions, whose under 18s and reserve grade sides also secured victories over Warilla and Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles, to also qualify for their respective grand finals.
The Stingrays headed into the first-grade grand final-qualifier in great spirits after securing a first minor premiership and a first club championship, which was presented to committee members just before the first-grade kick-off.
But once the game got underway it was evident the Lions were ready to cause an upset, on the back of their suffocating defence and creative play from the Ford brothers Nathan and Taj, as well halfback Rixon Russell.
Though 16 minutes into the game it was the home side Stingrays who led 12-6 but come the halftime break it was the Lions who went to the sheds leading 18-12.
The star of the show was undoubtedly speedy fullback Wesley Pring, who bagged a hat-trick of tries.
His second try was something special, with Pring catching a bomb 30 metres from his own line before beating a number of defenders to run about 70 metres to score under the post.
This try levelled proceedings at 12-12, with a converted Hamish Holland try in the 39th minute giving the Lions a six-point lead at the halfway point of the game.
The Stingrays were always going to come out strong in the second half and it was no surprise to see their inspirational player-coach Tom Warner lead the way.
The barnstorming second rower made a great break on the left edge before passing inside for prop Liam Scott to barge over.
Though it was all Gerringong after this, with the Scott Stewart-coached Lions crossing for two converted tries to Pring and Hayden Buchanan, and a penalty goal to Taj Ford to open up a commanding 14-point lead.
They held this lead until the final minute of play, with Stingrays winger Jayden Harris scoring a consolation try at the death.
Stewart was a proud and happy man after the game.
"It's a great day for the club," he said.
"At the start of the year we lost a lot of players through retirement and just general turnover. To be where we are now is really a credit to the blokes who are here.
"I say especially it's a credit to our senior players, they hold this club together and they've had a lot of turnover of players. Nat [Ford] and Rick [Rixon Russell] and those guys just guide them through all the time. They deserve a lot of credit."
As for the game itself, Stewart was pleased for the most part with his team's decision-making and defense.
"We probably didn't stick to our plan real good, actually. I thought we were a little bit off but you get through and you win those games," he said.
"You're just happy to get the win. I'd like to think we've got a bit of improvement in us, but I'm sure they think the same thing too."
While Stewart was full of praise for his experienced players, the coach also lauded the performance of his gun fullback Pring.
"You can't buy speed. He's just one of those blokes, he's an X-factor. He's the sort of guy that you'd hope to go on to bigger and better things."
While it was a disappointing day for the home side, the Stingrays still have the opportunity to make their first first-grade grand final, but they will have to beat their fierce Shellharbour rivals Sharks next Saturday to do so.
The Sharks downed Nowra-Bomaderry Jets 38-22 on Saturday to secure another crack against the Stingrays.
The Stingrays won the last 'Battle of Shellharbour' to claim the minor premiership.
A grand final spot will be on the line in the second 'Battle of Shellharbour' .
Our news app has had a makeover, making it faster and giving you access to even more great content.