NHRU: Hamilton and Wanderers believe early exhanges key to grand final

BATTLE ROYALE: Rival captains Steve Lamont (Hamilton) and Luke Sherwood (Wanderers) with the NHRU premiership cup. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

BATTLE ROYALE: Rival captains Steve Lamont (Hamilton) and Luke Sherwood (Wanderers) with the NHRU premiership cup. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HAMILTON captain Steve Lamont admits Wanderers are the team everyone loves to beat.

The Two Blues’ success at having breakaway Ben Ham’s suspension overturned at the judiciary on Wednesday has only added fuel to the fire.

“They have the facilities, they have a dominant team and in the previous two years they have had all four grades in the grand final,” Lamont said. “It’s a game we love to step up for and play.”

However, the Hawks skipper did concede “I’m a little more nervous for this than I thought I would be.”

Hamilton and Wanderers have been the dominant sides for two years. They met in last season’s decider, which the Hawks won 14-7 to complete the minor-major premiership double.

Again, this campaign, the powerhouses finished one-two, with Wanderers 18-points clear of third. 

“All the pressure was on Wanderers last year,” Lamont said. “This one, we have gone straight through and only played one game in the last four weeks. Our training sessions are always opposed and physical but game fitness is something different. We will probably miss that, but we will be fresher for it. It will be interesting to see how the opening 10 minutes go.”

It is a point not lost on Two Blues skipper Luke Sherwood.

“When you get the week off, it can be hard to get back in the groove of the game,” he said. “You get a bit flat and, especially in the first 20 minutes, you can go missing. Having that consistency of games helps you start the way you should.”

Hamilton have won both encounters this season – 25-20 at No.2 Sportsground in round seven and 30-28 at Passmore Oval in round 16 – and four of the past five. The average winning margin in the past two seasons has been four points.

“Both teams are evenly matched and it will come down to a few key moments,” Wanderers coach Viv Paasi said. “If we don’t take our chances, it will come back to hurt us. We are in a pretty decent groove at the moment which is always good heading into a grand final.”

Lamont, a Hawks premiership winner in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015, said the Hawks would look to big players - Jason Keelan, Paddy Kilmurray, Seva Rokobaro and Joe Akkersdyk - to lead the way.

“Having a core set of blokes has been crucial,” the hooker said. “Our front row as well, which has been dominant. Both teams have strike power in the backs. Wanderers have Tim Marsh and Bill Coffey. We have Fiso Vaisegote and Sireli Bainivalu. There are a lot of points out wide, but you have to earn the right to shift the ball. The piggies is where the grunt work has to be done.”

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