A quick glance at the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder shows that there have been no upsets in the way the 2016 finals series has mapped out.
In all eight games, the side ranked higher on the ladder in each encounter won their respective match, and consequently, the minor premiership winning Mounties take on the second placed Illawarra Cutters in this Sunday’s Grand Final.
It can be said that both sides deserve to be playing one another for the premiership, and their two halfbacks certainly shared that sentiment after winning their respective Preliminary Final.
“I don’t think this team deserved to not make the Grand Final, we’ve put so much effort in throughout the year and we finished on top of the table,” Sam Williams told NSWRL.com.au after he steered his side to victory against the Wests Tigers.
“I don’t think it would have been just if we had have been knocked out, Tigers were brilliant all game, they’re a very tough side, but just the effort we put in to get to the grand final is a just reward.”
The Cutters played an equally tough game; they even trailed with ten minutes remaining.
Drew Hutchison laid on two tries at the death to seal the match, and he, just like Williams, believed his side deserves to still be in the race.
“We all knew that we deserved to be in the Grand Final, so [winning] was more relief than anything,” Hutchison told NSWRL.com.au.
“I was happy for everyone, it felt like a big weight off the shoulders, we didn’t complete the first six sets and that would frustrate anyone, it wasn’t our greatest game but we will definitely clean up a few things next week against Mounties.”
Not only do Mounties and the Cutters equally deserve a Grand Final appearance, but they also had similar Preliminary Finals, having to overcome half-time deficits in the pouring rain.
Mounties trailed 18-6, but they remained calm, composed and patient, and Williams played a huge role in their comeback.
He fought the wind and rain to slot his first two conversions from the sideline, set up two tries, and proved to be the ultimate decoy when lining up for a field-goal at 18-all, but the ball was dummied to him and the defenders followed suit, allowing Adam Clydsdale to score the match-winning try.
“It’s gutsy, it’s what semi-final football is all about. It was wet conditions and physical, and we just hung in there, we worked hard for 80 minutes, got the win and now we’re in to a Grand Final,” Williams said.
“We dropped the ball at the wrong times, and then we were pretty ordinary on our line defensively, we need to be a lot better than that, we conceded pretty soft tries, so we looked at that at half-time and we came out and scored 18 points in the second half which makes the win very rewarding.
“I think at this time of year goals often win you the games, it could be two points difference, it’s important you’re kicking well and just hope that the work you did during the week gets you the goal.”
When Jacob Host crossed the line to score the Cutters match-winning try after repeated sets of being on the attack, the players, bench and staff went up as one.
The simultaneous elation proved how relieving the victory was for the Cutters, as it is the first Grand Final they will participate in.
“It’s unreal, it’s a pretty good feeling, they don’t come around often and it’s the first Grand Final for the Illawarra Cutters so it will be a pretty special day and we’ll be out to enjoy the week while preparing for next week,” Hutchison said.
“We knew we had to stick to our processes because it was so wet, we knew we had fitness and we were going to back ourselves, and that showed in the last 10 minutes when we ran away with it.”
“It’s going to be a good game next weekend and it could be a good game to knock them off.”