THE Kiama Knights are now just one win away from the grand final after storming back to defeat the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas 24-12 on Sunday at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
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The visitors withstood an early onslaught, which saw skipper Kieran Poole leave the field with a head knock – before they scored the match’s first points in the eighth minute.
After two straight penalties, Cameron Vazzoler hit his fullback Tom Atkins with wrap around pass, who then put Jay Delaney over to score.
Vazzoler failed to convert from the sideline, as the Knights led 4-nil.
Eventually, after a number of Kiama errors out of their own end, the hosts responded.
Blair Grant put a grubber through, which Atkins failed to clean up – with the five-eighth picking up the scraps to score.
He converted his own try for 6-4.
That lead was short lived when Matt Morris scored.
A Vazzoler bomb is eventually grabbed by Chad Lisch, but the fullback knocked on in his own in goal, with Morris beating him to the lose ball to score.
Vazzoler converted for 10-6 after 21 minutes.
The Gorillas appeared to have their second in the 31st minute but desperate defence held Mark Walsh up over the line.
But after back to back penalties, Grant dived over for his second of the afternoon, using his pace to beat the napping defenders.
He converted his own try and the five-eighth had all 12 of the hosts points, as they led 12-10 at half-time.
After the resumption, Kiama had the stronger field position but couldn’t make the most of it, with a number of handling errors.
The hosts went extremely close to extending their margin, when Andrew Diomei was held up over the line, following strong play for Grant and Sam Hooper – but desperate Knights defence kept the deficit at two.
Minutes later, the hosts appeared certain to score but a one on one strip by Delaney on Jarryd Pepper saved the day.
The next set, Hamish McLaurin landed a 40/20 and off the enduring set, Vazzoler stepped his way through the line, after a tough run by Vaughan Thistlethwaite, to score.
He converted his own try for 16-12, with 17 minutes on the clock.
Vazzoler then extended the lead to a converted try, with seven to play, after the Gorillas were penalised for a tackle on Cameron Cornell.
The hosts were then gifted a golden chance equalise, when Luke Sutton knocked on from the kick-off, but the Knights held firm, holding the Gorillas up twice.
The match was sealed the next set, when McLaurin chipped, chased and regathered to put Cornell over to score.
Vazzoler made no mistake with the boot, extending the lead to 24-12, which is how it ended.
In the victory, the Knights were best served by Toby Nobes, Vazzoler, Delaney and Cameron Whittaker, while James Keelan, Grant, Aaron Henry and Mark Walsh did all they could for the Gorillas.
The Knights will now battle the Shellharbour Sharks on Sunday at Ron Costello Oval for a spot in the decider, while the Gorillas travel to Kevin Walsh Oval to battle Jamberoo on Saturday.
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