The Maitland Pickers claimed a memorable 16-14 win against Hills Bulls to take their place in the inaugural President's Cup grand final.
The Pickers will meet Glebe-Burwood Wolves in the final at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday, September 27, after the Wolves defeated North Sydney Bears 26-6 at Leichhardt Oval.
It was almost 10 years to the day since the Pickers defeated Cessnock 24-8 to win the 2010 Newcastle Rugby League grand final, the first of back-to-back titles.
Unfortunately, Saturday's win may have come at a cost with five-eighth Chad O'Donnell injuring his knee late in the game when he fell awkwardly after being tackled high.
Bulls back-rower Dean Matterson was sinbinned and placed on report over the incident two minutes before full-time.
The crowds boos soon turned to a celebratory roar as the Pickers held on to win what Pickers skipper Alex Langbridge described as the toughest and most physically draining match of the season to date.
Pickers coach Matt Lantry said the parochial hometown crowd, which filled almost every available seat in the grandstand and spilled onto the hill at either end of the field, had helped lift his team in the frenetic final minutes.
"I really want to thank the Maitland community for coming out and supporting us. When you get into a tight semi-final contest you have to find something to draw on and they were as vocal as I've seen at Maitland Sportsground for a while," Lantry said.
"It was great to see so many people on the hill, the grandstand full, we are really appreciative of getting so much support.
"I truly believe we drew on it at the end to just find something to get us home."
Hills never gave up the fight until the final play to produce a game which will live long in the memory of fans.
Star halfback Brock Lamb opened the scoring with a try which showcased all his class. Dummying to pass he stepped past the Bulls defence and then dragged three despairing tacklers over the line in the eight minute, for a 6-0 lead after he converted an easy shot.
The Bulls squared the ledger when Matterson popped a short pass to put Daniel Harrison across in the 17th minute.
The game turned into a real wrestle with neither side able to break their opponents line, until an Matt Soper-Lawler picked up a loose ball and raced 50 metres down the sideline to score and set up a 10-6 lead at the break.
Straight after the break wing James Bradley charged through to contest a Lamb bomb. After catching the ball he pivoted and broke the Bulls line and raced to score under the posts for a 16-6 lead.
Taniela Lasalo scored for the Bulls in the 49th minute for a 16-10 margin.
A controversial try was awarded to Leva Li in the 67th minute after he picked up a loose ball after Pickers forward Sam Anderson spilled the ball after seemingly being hit high in a tackle.
Both sides had chances in the final 10 minutes, but the Pickers finally prevailed much to the delight of the biggest crowd of the season after the Maitland City Council successful lobbied for the crowd limit to be lifted to 2500 from 500.
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