THE Gerringong Lions have returned to the Group Seven winner's circle, with an 18-10 win over the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas at Cec Glenholmes Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Like the majority of matches between the two sides for the last decade, the game was a tense and physical with little separating the two over the 80 minutes.
The Lions led 12-4 at half-time and were forced to defend their line grimly late in the second half as Warilla threw all they had at them in search of a comeback.
After weathering some early pressure from the Lions, it was the home side who opened the scoring.
Aaron Henry put Daniel Burke into half-gap near the line and the Warilla lock found Nathan Hore in support.
Burke couldn't convert Hore's try and the Gorillas led 4-nil after 15 minutes.
The Gorilla's lead didn't last long as the visitors made the most of a repeat set on Warilla's line.
Hooker Nathan Ford found Jake Taylor down a short blindside and the Gerringong lock crashed over.
Taylor converted his own try and Gerringong led 6-4.
The game continued to seesaw following Taylor's try and the Gorillas soon looked like they had regained the lead.
A shift to the left caught the Lions short and Chad Lisch sliced through only to lose the ball as he crossed the line.
After Lisch's close call Gerringong appeared to have extended their lead, but poor hands from the Lions meant the chance went begging.
As time ticked on, it looked like the Lions will take their slim two-point buffer in to the break until Toby Gumley-Quine cut the Gorillas open.
The Gerringong fullback caught some tired Warilla defender off-guard out of dummy-half and raced 60 metres to score.
Taylor added the conversion and the Lions went to half-time up 12-4.
The second half saw the Gorillas come out of the sheds full of running and had the Lions on the back foot in the opening stages.
Despite that, it was the Lions who had the first real chance of the half when Alexander Weir ran onto a short ball from Isaac Russell, but the prop couldn't hold ball amid the Warilla defence.
The Lions didn't have to wait much longer to extend their lead, as Gumley-Quine again showed his pace.
The Gerringong speedster swooped on a grubber and raced the length of the field to score under the posts despite a determined chase from Warilla front-rower Jake Goody.
Taylor added his third conversion and Gerringong led 18-4.
After Gumley-Quine's try the game dropped off for a period, with both sides guilty of a number of handling errors.
It was the Lions who regained composure first and again mounted pressure on the Gorillas' line.
Warilla's defence stood firm however and they turned Gerringong away.
As the game entered it's final stages, the Gorilla's seemed to find another gear as they looked to claw their way back into the match.
Henry again had a hand in helping his side hit, this time the Warilla prop popped a ball to a trailing Hans Schuster who crossed next to the posts.
Burke converted and the Gorillas trimed the Gerringong lead to 18-10.
Schuster's try set up an enthralling final 10 minutes as the Gorillas dominated possession and threw all they had at the Lions.
It wasn't to be for the home side, however as the Gerringong defence held firm and gave the Lions an important win.
Corey Mulhall, Rixon Russell and Reece Hagan all turned in strong performances for the Lions, while Henry, Burke and Schuster were Warilla's best.