THE Gerringong Lions have kept their Group 7 premiership defence alive with a 24-16 win over the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas at Michael Cronin Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The do-or-die match was the latest installment in the continuing post-season rivalry between the two clubs, which stretches back to the 2010 decider.
Like most matches over that time, Saturday’s affair was physical one and tempers came close to boiling over on numerous occasions.
The Lions perhaps had the cooler heads of the two sides and they jumped to a 18-6 lead at the break that proved too much for the Gorillas to chase down.
The home side opened the game with the better of the running, but despite dominating possession they couldn’t find a way through the Gorillas’ line.
The Gorillas on the other hand made the most of their first real attacking chance and jumped into the lead after 10 minutes.
Prop Andrew Diomei linked up with Aaron Henry close to the line and the Warilla lock popped a perfect offload for halfback Manny Sultana to cross left of the posts.
Chad Lisch converted to give the visitors a 6-nil lead.
The Lions hit back 10 minutes later after they made the most of a repeat set.
Brad Davidson turned the ball on the inside to Michael Brown and the veteran back-rower went through a yawning gap to open the Lions’ account.
Corey Mulhall added the conversion to level the scores.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half the Lions hit their first lead of the game through Mulhall.
The Gerringong centre proved too strong to stop from 10 metres out and then converted his own try for a 12-6 Gerringong lead.
With five minutes remaining in the half Gerringong pushed the lead out to two converted tries thanks to some second-phase play close to the Warilla line.
The ball passed through a number of sets of hands before ending up with Rixon Russell and the Lions half crossed next to the posts.
Some push and shove in back-play delayed the awarding of the try but Russell wasn’t to be denied and Mulhall’s subsequent conversion gave Gerringong and 18-6 lead that would stand until the break.
The opening stages of the second half mirrored that of the first as Gerringong found themselves on the attack early.
This time the Lions made the most of the opportunity through Ewen McCarroll.
The replacement hooker exploited some poor defence around the ruck and darted over under the posts.
Mulhall’s fourth conversion handed Gerringong a 24-6 lead.
Just as looked like the Lions were well and truly in control, the Gorilla’s mounted a fight back.
Successive penalties put them on the attack and this time they crossed through Henry.
The Warilla lock was too much to handle close to line and muscled his way over next to the posts.
Lisch’s conversion bought the score to 24-12 with just over half an hour remaining.
The Gorilla’s would soon trim the gap further after forcing a repeat set.
A shift of the ball to the right caught the Lions short and Craig Nolan crossed in the corner.
Lisch’s conversion was waved away and Gerringong held a 24-16 lead with a little over 20 minute remaining.
The came became even more physical in the final quarter as Gerringong fought to defend their lead, while the Gorillas were determined to ensure they remained within striking distance.
Gerringong looked like they may have sealed the game when Kal Collins crossed following a one-on-one strip by Russell, but the prop was called back for a double movement.
Collins’ attempt proved to be as close as either side would come to adding to the score and the Lions held on for the win.
For Gerringong, Nathan Ford, Collins and Russell all had strong games, while Henry, Diomei and Sultana did all they could for the Gorillas.