The Maitland Pickers booked their spot in the 2019 Newcastle RL semi-finals with a come-from-behind 34-26 win against Lakes United at the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
Trailing 26-12, the Pickers ran in four tries in the last 17 minutes to over-run the Seagulls and score what turned out to be a must-win victory with Cessnock defeating South Newcastle 18-14 at Townson Oval.
The scenes of jubilation spilled over from the ground with the players joining former players and fans on the Old Boys Hill in a huge rendition of the club's victory song.
It was mission accomplished with the single message on the white board "Win and play a home semi" achieved.
Trailing 26-12 there were plenty of doubts they would and when Frazer Price was denied a try, with 20 minutes to go, ruled he was just short of the line it seemed like luck was against Maitland.
But enter joint-skipper Sam Anderson whose bustling 63rd minute try beside the posts gave the Pickers the impetus they needed.
With Lakes reduced to 12-men three minutes later when Roman Fepuleai was sin-binned for 10 minutes the Pickers surge became an irrepressible force and Price crossed in the 67th, Greg Morris in the 70th and Tylar Carter in the 77th .
Morris converted five of six goals, with Price and Jarrod Smith scoring back-to-back tries in the first half.
"I'm that proud of what we achieved today in terms of where we were," Pickers coach Luke Dorn said.
"At 26-12 with 20 minutes to go we were absolutely gone but while we lack belief in ourselves at time we somehow found it and what we did in that last 15 minute minute was outstanding.
"They were down a man, but it wouldn't have mattered.
"I was that proud of how we found our resolve. We found a way to a way to win. The boys were unaware but Cessnock had won and we were out of the finals if we didn't win.
"That's what semi-finals were about. Our season was dead but we weren't having it.
"We've given ourselves the chance to win this comp, there are five teams which can win this comp and we are as good as of them."
Pickers skipper Brenton Horwood said the team had left their best form to the last 20 minutes of the season.
"I don't think we've reached our best at any stage this season. We shown glimpses of it throughout the year but what we showed in the last 20 minutes today was hopefully the turning point and we will play that way for the rest of the season," he said
Horwood said the post-match celebrations on the Old Boys Hill with the fans and former players as a special moment.
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