THE Gerringong Lions quest for third straight Group 7 First Grade premiership has come to an end after they fell to the Kiama Knights 19-4 at Kiama Showground on Saturday afternoon.
The two traditional rivals fought out a tense and physical local derby, with the Knights kicking game and speed through the ruck, laying the platform for the win.
Knight’s halves Cameron Vazzolar and Blake Rickard both seemed to have the ball on a string and managed to trap the Lions in their in-goal on numerous occasions.
The Lions on the other hand seemed far from their usual composed selves and struggled to build or maintain any real pressure on the Knights.
There were ominous signs for the defending premiers from the opening stages of the game, as the Knights moved the ball nearly the length of the field in their first set.
From there, the Knights went on to dominate possession and field position for the first 15 minutes of the game and were rewarded when Vazzolar opened the scoring.
The rookie Kiama half stepped back inside close to the Lions’ line and crossed next to the posts.
Vazzolar converted his own try and the Knights led 6-nil.
After the opening try, possession swung back to the Lions and the visitors looked to level the scores.
As it did for the nearly the entire 80 minutes, the Knights’ defence stood firm and Gerringong were turned away.
It was then Gerringong’s turn to defend as Kiama’s kicking game produced back-to-back repeat sets.
It appeared the Knights had made the most of the chance, but a promising attacking raid was called back for a forward pass.
That turnover resulted in Gerringong enjoying another period of possession, but Kiama’s determination in defence again proved up to the task.
The Knights were dealt a blow though, with backrower Travis Poole assisted from the field after taking a heavy head knock.
As time ticked down it looked like the Knights would take the 6-nil lead into the break until a Gerringong knock-on gave them one more chance on the stroke of half-time.
From the ensuing scrum, Vazzolar knocked over a field goal to hand the home side a 7-nil lead at the break.
The opening of the second half saw Kiama presented with a prime attacking opportunity, but this time the Gerringong defence stood firm.
It then looked like the Lions would open their account, but some scrambling defence saw Gerringong centre Danny Wedd held-up.
With 10 minutes gone in the half, it was Vazzolar that again bought Gerringong undone.
This time the Knights’ half made light work of the Gerringong defence after a scrum win and sliced through for his second.
His subsequent conversion put the lead out to 13-nil.
The reigning premiers refused to give up however and they soon gave themselves a sniff through Nathan Ford.
The ball ended up in the hands of the Gerringong hooker from a kick and he crossed to the right of the posts.
Corey Mulhall’s conversion attempt was waved away and Kiama held a handy seven-point lead at 13-4.
With 15 minutes remaining Kiama sealed the game.
A repeat set gave them an ideal attacking chance and Tom Atkins crossed next to the posts.
The Kiama fullback cut-back across the grain and spun across the line to score.
Vazzolar added the conversion for a 19-4 Kiama lead and the home crowd sensed the game was as good as over.
The Lions didn’t put the cue in the rack however and they threw everything they had at Kiama in the dying stages but they couldn’t draw any closer.
For the Knights, Vazzolar, Rickard and Daniel Martin all had strong games, while Ford, Kal Collins and Lloyd Bowen did all they could for the Lions.