THE Gerringong Lions have secured the 2020 Group Seven minor premiership with a game to play following a 36-26 win over the Nowra-Bomaderry Jets at Michael Cronin Oval on Saturday.
The win means the Lions sit four competition points clear of the crowd of teams jostling for spots in the top five, while the loss means the Jets face a do or die match against Berry-Shoalhaven Heads next week.
The Jets could be without utility Dwyane Connors for that match too after he was sent-off on the stroke of full-time.
The Lions are also likely to go into their final match without a few regulars, as they take the chance to rest some of their bigger names ahead of the finals series.
It was the Lions who jumped out to an early lead, taking full advantage of a weight of field position in the opening of the first half.
Fill-in fullback Isaac Russell showed some light feet through the middle of the ruck and cut through the Jets' defence to race away for the first try.
Tyran Wishart's conversion saw the Lions lead 6-nil.
The Gerringong custodian was soon in the thick of things again, this time backing a Kayne Brennan bust to grab his second.
Another Wishart conversion gave the Lions a 12-nil lead.
The horror start would continue for the Jets when hooker Paul Roberts was given a stint in the sin-bin.
The visitors did manage to repel one Gerringong attacking raid while being a man down but the Lions soon made them pay.
Nathan Ford, in his first match back from an elbow injury, found space around the ruck and half Rixon Russell stormed onto a short ball to crash over, with Wishart converting for 18-nil.
Just as it looked like the game was well and truly getting away from the Jets, they struck back as winger Braydon Walsh snatched a pass from the air and raced 90 metres to score.
Walsh converted his try for 18-6.
The Lions grabbed their fourth try just before the break when replacement Beau Doosey grabbed a Wishart kick and dropped the ball out the back for Brennan to cross under the posts.
Wishart's conversion saw the Lions lead 24-6 at the break.
The Lions wasted little time in extending their lead after the break and this time it was Wishart who benefitted from Ford's work around the ruck.
The Gerringong pivot hit a yawning gap off Ford and crossed under the posts and converted his own try for 30-6.
After playing the provider, it was then Ford's turn to grab a try of his own.
Presented with only one marker, the Lions skipper jumped out of dummy half and raced 40 metres past a number of Jets' defenders to score.
Wishart converted and the Lions lead 36-6 with just over 30 to play.
While the Lions seemed well in control, the Jets didn't fold and soon mounted their comeback.
Bustling prop Zac Kershaw crashed through the Lions defence and crossed to the left of the posts to score, with Walsh's conversion bringing the score to 36-12.
The Jets then made it three straight when a slick backline play sent winger Blake Harris-Davis over.
Walsh added his third conversion and the Lions lead was down to 36-22 with 15 to play.
Despite another late try to Bradley Manton, the early lead they gave up proved too much for the Jets to run down and the Lions held on for a 10-point lead.
There was drama on full-time as both sides came together after a heavy contest for the ball, which led to Connors being given his marching orders following a scuffle with Brennan.
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