Maitland Pickers are through to the Presidents Cup Grand Final after a hard-fought 16-14 win over Hills District Bulls at Maitland No.1 Sportsground but the win might have come at a cost after five-eighth Chad O’Donnell left the field with an ankle injury.
The Pickers will now meet Glebe-Burwood Wolves in the decider at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday September 27 after they ran away from North Sydney Bears 26-6 at Leichhardt Oval.
Maitland have been the form team of the competition after finishing with the Minor Premiership and dropping only one game all year but they had to dig deep in defence in the second half after the Bulls staged a late fightback.
Pickers halfback and former NRL player Brock Lamb has been in scintillating touch this season and got the home team off to a flyer after only eight minutes when he dummied to his outside before stepping past Zach Dockar-Clay and through the defence of Daniel Harrison and Dean Matterson to score. He converted his own try to put Maitland up 6-0.
The Bulls hit back a short time later after Dean Matterson popped a lovely short ball to put Daniel Harrison over the line with Josh Lewis adding the extras to level the scores at 6-all.
Maitland re-took the lead after capitalising on a Bulls mistake when Harrison lost the ball and winger Matthew Soper-Lawler picked up the scraps and raced down the sideline to score and set up a 10-6 lead at the break.
The Pickers established some breathing space shortly after play resumed when Lamb put up a bomb and James Bradley charged through to snatch it out of the air and score underneath the posts. Lamb converted to put the home team up 16-6 and on track for a Grand Final berth.
The Bulls pegged one back through Taniela Lasalo and then set up a grandstand finish after Leva Li picked up a loose ball to score. The Pickers protested the decision after forward Samuel Anderson appeared to lose the ball after a high tackle but the referee waved play on.
Both teams had opportunities to land the knockout blow with 10 minutes still to go until fulltime before the Pickers held on for a 16-14 win. O’Donnell, who turned in a strong performance and formed a formidable combination with Lamb, hobbled from the field with less than two minutes to go.