WARILLA-LAKE South have taken out the Group 7 Rugby League minor premiership and earned a valuable week off, but were forced to earn it on Sunday.
The Gorillas downed third-placed Nowra-Bomaderry 38-24 in glorious conditions at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
Despite appearing out-muscled at times, the Jets refused to go away and will take plenty of consolation from pushing Warilla throughout.
Aaron Henry, substituting for regular pivot Jesse Dee, scored a hat-trick for the home team during a great, end-to-end hit-out for both outfits leading into this weekend's semi-finals.
The visitors opened the afternoon's scoring in the tenth minute, when, on the back of a couple of penalties, Matt Rouen barged over despite the attention of multiple defenders.
Henry capitalised on an alleged Nowra two-man strip, being too difficult to halt from close range.
During a game where the respective teams were frequently punished for ill-discipline, the Gorillas received a piggy-back penalty from the next set of tackles.
The Warilla forwards steamrolled downfield, an ensuing overlap enabling Tyson Brown to power across the stripe for 12-6.
Just when it appeared the size and aggression of the home side's pack would dominate their opposition, a Warilla error from the kick-off afforded Nowra the chance to square the ledger.
Skipper Ben Wellington's strength and elusiveness did just that.
Shortly after the Jets were penalised while in possession, and Dane Corran caught the defence napping, diving over from dummy half and planting the ball next to the posts to lead 18-12 at the interval.
The rapid momentum shifts continued upon the resumption.
In the 43rd minute a towering Geoff Johnson bomb was spilled and Nowra's Jack Atfield picked up the crumbs.
Conversely, the visitors again rued giving away a penalty in possession; winger Chad Lisch's great handling reeling in a Henry grubber-kick.
Craig Nolan's sideline conversion presented them with another six-point buffer.
Not conceding defeat, Jets winger Keiran Brandon backed up a line break and possessed too much speed for the cover defence, locking up the scores.
A scrum penalty to Warilla relieved the home team, the defence again unable to stop Henry a few metres out from the try-line.
Further four-pointers to Blake Colgan and Henry within the final ten minutes blew out the margin, which perhaps didn't quite reflect the closeness of the contest.
Shellharbour City Sharks warmed up for next weekend's major preliminary semi-final with a hard-fought 42-22 win against Jamberoo Superoos at Kevin Walsh Oval.
The game was a tough one, the teams swapping tries early as Jamberoo took a surprise 12-8 lead at the 20-minute mark, before the Sharks took over to be ahead 22-12 at the break.
The Sharks took control with two further tries after the break and the battle eventually took its toll, two tries within the final 10 minutes enough for the Sharks to head into the finals in winning form.
In other weekend games, Gerringong Lions defeated Port Kembla 36-20, while Albion Park-Oak Flats sent veterans Sean Jenkins and Dean and Derek Gray out winners after a 38-24 victory over Berry Magpies.
Next weekend's semi-finals will feature Gerringong Lions and Kiama Knights at Michael Cronin Oval, while Shellharbour City Sharks and Nowra-Bomaderry Jets will clash at Ron Costello Oval.