The Maitland Pickers under-19s bowed out of the finals race despite a brave second-half fightback against the Cessnock Goannas.
The Goannas advanced to the grand final after holding out Maitland 26-20 in Sunday’s Newcastle Rugby League under-19 preliminary final at Townson Oval.
The Pickers stormed home in the second half, holding the Goannas scoreless and running in three tries, but the 26-6 half-time deficit proved too big to bridge and Cessnock will now play Lakes United in Saturday’s grand final at McDonald Jones Stadium
Cessnock dominated the first half jumping to a 20-0 lead before the Pickers finally scored when Tyson Geering.crossed for a converted try.
But the Goannas scored again to take a 26-6 lead into the break.
As predicted by Pickers coach Nick Peate, Goannas lock Joe Bromage posed the biggest threat for the Pickers with his powerful running game from lock and ability to link up with the back line.
Bromage delivered for the Goannas running in two tries and fullback Harry O'Brien also got a double. Hooker Peter Wilson got the Goannas other try.
The Pickers were valiant in the second half and scored tries through Bayley Ritchie, Ethan Callinan and Joel Smith to bridge the final gap to a converted try.
In other results on Sunday, Central Newcastle 12 defeated Wests 6 in Ladies League Tag to face Souths in the grand final. Wests beat Lakes 36-22 in reserves and will also meet Souths.
Macquarie meet Wests in the grand final after smashing Central 60-0.