WANDERERS will take on Hamilton in a repeat of the 2015 Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final after the Two Blues recorded a resounding 43-17 win over Southern Beaches at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The scoreline was a reversal of the qualifying final won 43-18 by Southern Beaches a fortnight ago.
The result means the top two teams at the end of the regular season will meet in the decider.
“The game plan didn’t change too much from the last time we played them, but we executed well today,” Wanderers coach Viv Paasi said.
Wanderers meant business from the get-go.
They capitalised on two unforced errors early by Beaches to jump out to a 17-0 lead after 10 minutes.
From there they didn’t let Beaches in the game.
They combated the visitors’ pick-and-drive game with bruising defence. Twice Va Talaileva and Tim Poese were driven back in tackles in the opening 15 minutes which set the tone.
The Two Blues had success kicking in behind to move the big Beaches pack around, and when they did spread the ball, speed men Tim Marsh, Dillon Rowney and Bill Coffey ran riot.
Beaches captain Va Talaileva tried to lift his troops. He burrowed over from close range to reduce the gap to 17-7 in the 18th minute after the Two Blues lost Ben Ham to the sin bin for repeated team infringements. The yellow card is believed to be Ham’s third for season and he will miss the grand final.
Marsh extended the margin back to 17 points when he left four defenders in his wake in a 40 metre burst down the right touch line.
Tapaki Rahui, who took over the kicking duties for injured fly-half Luke Simmons, added the extras for 24-7 at half-time.
Any chance of a second-half Beaches revival was crushed when Rowney crossed for his second five minutes after the break.
“If you don’t start from the first minute, teams like Wanderers and the Hawks will make you pay,” Talaileva said. “They showed that today. Still at half-time, we thought we had a chance but Wanderers were on fire. Once you relax that is it. I’m pretty proud of the effort. No-one expected us to be here today. We ended up coming third, we will better for it next year. We definitely learned from last week, we will learn again, and hopefully we can improve.”