A PENALTY goal after the full-time siren allowed Warilla-Lake South Gorillas to escape with a heart-stopping 20-18 win over a gutsy Kiama Knights at Kiama Showground on Friday night.
With the scores locked on 18-all after a strong comeback by the Knights, the Gorillas were awarded a penalty with just 12 seconds remaining, 30 metres from the Kiama line and just metres from the eastern sideline and Warilla fullback Craig Nolan stepped up and with the siren having already rung in the background, landed a superb goal as the Gorillas supporters went wild in the grandstands.
While the loss was devastating for the Knights, who let a 10-6 halftime lead slip and trailed 18-10 with 15 minutes remaining, it was an indication that the excellent first round win over Jamberoo was no fluke and they look set for an good season.
The Gorillas looked sharp early and it wasn’t surprising when classy five-eighth Jesse Dee sent lock Aaron Henry crashing over near the posts for Nolan to convert and give their side a 6-0 lead.
However they then seemed to go off the boil and let the Knights get a sniff and fullback Tom Atkins send rugged centre Corey Grigg through a gap and he bumped off two defenders to crash over. Jack Alexander converted to level the scores.
Alexander was then to the fore as the Knights went to the front as he dummied his way through and threw a beautiful short pass to second-rower Cameron Whittaker who dived over out wide to give the Knights the lead and an advantage they took to the break.
The Gorillas looked a bit rattled by the swarming defence of the smaller but more mobile Knights pack, but the question remained as to wether they could sustain the pressure as the game wore on.
The game remained tight until Kiama gifted the visitors a repeat set of six tackles with a handling error and the Gorillas capitalised with flying winger Chad Lisch finishing off a sweeping backline movement to score in the corner and Nolan nailed the sideline conversion, an ideal sighter for his match-winning kick 20 minutes late, to give his side a 12-10 lead.
The Knights numbers on the bench started to look a bit battered, and it was a rampaging Henry who seemed to have sealed the match who a ‘show-and-go’ near the line saw him go over and Nolan’s conversion gave the Gorillas an important 18-10 lead.
Showing plenty of heart, the Knights seemed buoyed by the sudden change of fortunes and Whittaker and his co-captain Marc Laird engineered a super finish, with Whittaker bursting through and racing 40 metres before being dragged down.
From the next play, five-eighth Kieran Pools wrong-footed a scrambling defence to dot down under the post. Alexander landed the conversion and five minutes later, and his side again on the attack, landed a penalty goal to tie the scores with less than eight minutes on the clock.
Both tired teams threw everything at each other and just when it looked like the sides would have to settle for what would have been a well-deserved draw, Nolan stole the game for the Gorillas with his late heroics.
In what was a tremendous game, Jesse Dee, Aaron Henry and Damien Paulissen were strong for the Gorillas, while Whittaker, Poole, Dean Gentle and Tom Atkins were best for the Knights.