THE Gerringong Lions are the first team into the 2020 Group Seven Rugby League first grade grand final, after defeating the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas 35-22 on Saturday.
The grand final qualifier at Michael Cronin Oval opened with a bang, with four tries being scored in the opening 18 minutes - with the first coming from the hosts.
In the fourth minute, following a spread to the left, a dummy and sharp run saw lock Corey Mulhall dive over.
Second-rower Jake Taylor added the extras and the Lions led 6-nil.
But this didn't faze the young Gorillas, who hit back with not one but two tries of their own.
In the 12th minute, dynamic five-eighth Jake Brisbane did it all himself, by running to the line, grubbering it through and regathering the ball off the upright to score under the sticks.
Halves partner Blair Grant converted and it was 6-all.
.@GerringongLions coach Michael Cronin chats about his side’s 35-22 Group Seven Rugby League grand final qualifier win against Warilla-Lake South.— Courtney Rhys Ward (@CortRhysWard) October 10, 2020
The decider at Albion Park will be their first since 2016, where they’ll chase a record 20th premiership. @NSWRL@mercury_sportspic.twitter.com/tDgrYfDJmt
Two minutes later, Brisbane was again involved in the visitors' second - this time booting it through for centre Kye Deane to beat Lions fullback Matt Winchester to the ball.
Grant failed his sideline conversion but the Gorillas led 10-6.
But the Lions would have the last laugh of the first quarter when Winchester reached out with his right hand to score next to the posts.
Taylor easily converted and the Lions led 12-10 at the first drinks break.
In the 25th minute, Taylor snagged a four-pointer of his own, after shrugging off four would-be tacklers on his way to the line.
He couldn't convert his own try and the hosts led by six.
The minor premiers lead was extended in the 31st minute when electric halfback Rixon Russell broke through the line and sent Mulhall over for his second of the afternoon.
Taylor failed to convert the Lions' fourth try but added a penalty goal just before half-time, to give the hosts a 22-10 advantage at the break.
Just as they did in the first half, the Lions opened the scoring in the second.
Warilla-Lake South co-coach Neil Farmilo breaks down his side’s 35-22 loss to the @GerringongLions in the Group Seven Rugby League grand final qualifier.— Courtney Rhys Ward (@CortRhysWard) October 10, 2020
The Gorillas will now host the winner of Jamberoo/Kiama game in next Saturday’s preliminary final. @NSWRL@mercury_sportspic.twitter.com/0dvU4c8pAZ
This time five-eighth Tyran Wishart put up a perfectly weighted cross-field kick, which winger Denver Ford went up and snatched out of the air, despite pressure from Gorillas' Liam Vane-Tempest.
Taylor converted in front of the Lions faithful on the northern hill and the lead was 18.
But the Gorillas wouldn't go away and three minutes after the second half drinks break, they had their third.
Following a strong run by prop Blake Dowel, Sam Hooper hit Grant with a sweeping pass to the right to charge over.
The latter converted his own try and it was 28-16.
Seven minutes later, the Gorillas scored again - this time through powerful forward Guy Rosewarn.
Grant's conversion reduced the margin to six to set up a grandstand finish.
But with four minutes to go, Wishart landed a field goal from right in front, to put the Lions up by seven.
The explosive Wishart then put an exclamation point on the match when he stepped three defenders before beating two more to crash over for the Lions.
With Taylor off the field, Wishart converted to make it 35-22 at full-time.
In the win, Mulhall, Hamish Holland, Winchester and Denver Ford were all standouts, as Grant, Brisbane, Hooper and Justin Jones did all they could for the Gorillas.
The win sees the Lions progress to their first grand final since 2016, where they'll attempt to win a record 20th first grade premiership.
While the Gorillas will now host Jamberoo in Saturday's preliminary final at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
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