GERRINGONG and Warilla have reminded the Group 7 competition why they’ve been the benchmark sides in recent years, playing out a thrilling 16-all draw at Michael Cronin Oval on Saturday.
Despite late field goal attempts and a last minute almost try, neither side could find a way to break the deadlock after 80 minutes of high quality football.
While the take sides take a point away each, it might be the Lions who take something else from the result, after Rixon Russell, Brad Davidson and Jackson Merritt never took to the paddock.
The Gorillas were the first on the scoreboard, a Gerringong error put them on the attack and they capitalised.
Makeshift hooker Jesse Dee found some space around the ruck and darted over for 4-nil after 10 minutes.
The lead increased soon after, a Gerringong error again gifting the Gorillas points as Chad Lisch pounced on a loose ball and raced three quarters of the field.
Craig Nolan converted for 10-nil.
Fearing that this could be a repeat of the first time the two sides met this season when Warilla emerged big winners, the Lions switched into gear.
A towering bomb from Patrick Cronin earned his side a repeat set on the Warilla line and Gerringong made the most of it.
It was Cronin’s boot again that undid the visitors, this time a deft grubber that that a flying Joel Roberts latched unto to score under the posts.
The fullback converted his own try for 10-6.
Gerringong were in again soon after, this time helped by a one man advantage after Tyson Brown was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Replacement Andrew Poppet came within centimetres after a nice ball from Isaac Russell before Russell did it himself, throwing a huge dummy and diving over from dummy-half.
Roberts converted for a 12-10 Gerringong lead.
The Lions would’ve been kicking themselves not to take the lead to half-time after Dee’s second try, courtesy of a an Aaron Henry bust gave the visitors a 16-12 half-time lead.
Warilla nearly extended the lead soon after play resumed after some nice work by Lisch almost saw the winger grab his double.
Gerringong then should’ve taken the lead back, Roberts burst through and looked to have set Elliot Stewart up with a certain try, but the winger fumbled the ball and the chance went begging.
After the early opportunities, the two sides turned their thoughts to defence as they grimly defended their respective lines.
As time ticked down it looked like the visitors might emerge victorious, but Henry’s sin-binning with 13 to go gave the Lions a sniff.
They made the most of the one-man advantage soon after, spreading the ball to the left and debutant Danny Wedd sent Peter Cronin over in the corner.
Roberts couldn’t replicate his 2010 grand final heroics as he duffed the difficult conversion to leave the score at 16-16.
Patrick Cronin then had his opportunity to wind back the clock to 2010, but he couldn’t produce a match winner as he pushed his field-goal attempt wide.
Ben Cotter then did the same for Warilla and looked like both sides had blown their last chances.
Warilla though would get one last crack after Gerringong turned the ball over on their line.
The Gorillas looked as if they might get the match winner in the final seconds as the ball went to the right but some desperate Gerringong defence held them out.
In a thrilling game, Patrick Cronin, Simon Hoare and Roberts had fine games for Gerringong, while Luke Walsh, Keiran Rankmore and Henry were Warilla’s best.