The Bombala Blue Heelers will play in the Group 16 grand final next weekend after seeing off the Batemans Bay Tigers 26-6 at Mackay Park.
Bombala halfback Tyler Jones scored a hat-trick of tries in the victory, which gives the Blue Heelers another shot at the Bega Roosters next weekend.
The first 20 minutes of the match were scoreless, as both sides produced a number of crunching hits. However, it was Bombala that was producing more scoring chances, particularly down the left side through Wame Belolevu and Alex Rosten.
The Tigers also had chances, but a number of key dropped balls kept them off the board.
The deadlock was broken in the 25th minute through Jones’ first try of the day. Luke Farmer had the Tigers sniffing a try down the right flank, but Jones read his pass perfectly and raced 90 metres to score the opener.
The Tigers had their best chance of the first half in the shades of half time, but young winger Jacob Bradbury dropped the ball with the try line beckoning to leave the half-time score at 6-0.
Bombala looked dangerous early in the second half, and Tevita Badogo took advantage of some early pressure with a clean break through the left side of the Tigers’ defensive line. He offloaded to Jones, who broke through three attempted tackles to score his second try of the day.
The Tigers looked to work their way back into the contest, but ball control issues continued to plague them in the second half.
The dropped ball became more painful on the hour mark, as Blue Heelers lock-forward Luke Ingram made a clean break through the heart of the defence.
His attempted pass wide was deflected by Tigers’ fullback Adam McCann, but Blue Heelers’ captain Paul Perkins picked up the loose ball and raced away to score a try.
The Tigers’ finally hit back 16 minutes from time, as McCann created something out of nothing with a grubber through the Heelers’ line.
He toed the ball on two more times, before Jordan Terare beat the defence and the touchline to score.
However, the Heelers wouldn’t let the Tigers grab the momentum back, and Jones’ sealed the game with a try inside the final 10 minutes.
The Blue Heelers will now play the Bega Roosters in the next weekend’s grand final, and they hold a 2-1 lead over the course of the season.
Blue Heelers captain Paul Perkins said it was a really tough game of footy.
“We couldn’t take one backwards step against these guys, they just kept firing at us all day,” he said. “I’m happy our boys stepped up, they just kept repelling them off that try line.
“The Tigers earned their spot here, that’s for sure. They’re a really good football side, and massive props to them for turning it around this year.”
Perkins said he expects his troops to put forward a similar defensive display next weekend.
“That defence really shone today,” he said. “It’s been a big part of our training this year, and we’re going to keep working on it this week.”
Tigers captain Luke Farmer was disappointed in the result, but said his side did themselves proud.
“We showed in that first half that we can match them,” he said. “It was a really tough first half, and we were only down a try heading into the sheds.
“They won the grind in the second half, and we let in a couple of easy tries.”
Farmer said it “sucks to lose”, but said the club should benefit from its turnaround in 2018.
“It’s been a successful year for the Tigers considering the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve done it the hard way all season, and we had to do it the hard way in the finals as well.
“We’ve got great juniors coming through for next year, and having a year like this will bring more players and fans to the club.”