Wanderers will meet Hamilton in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final for a third straight year after the Two Blues accounted for Southern Beaches 34-20 in the preliminary final at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
Hamilton and Wanderers have been the dominant forces for the past five years.
The Hawks are chasing a third straight premiership to ice the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Wanderers last won the title in 2014 and have gone down to Hamilton in consecutive deciders. The Two Blues have all grades in Saturday’s grand finals at No.2 Sportsground and have already won a premiership in colts and the club championships.
Beaches battled hard on Saturday but in the end couldn’t handle the pace of the Two Blues.
Winger Tim Marsh scored a brilliant individual try and was a constant threat as Wanderers jumped to a 17-3 half-time lead. Fellow flyer George Ashworth, who came in for Bill Coffey, finished with a double in the five-tries-to-three victory.
“That’s four grand finals in a row now,” pleased Wanderers coach Viv Paasi said. “There are people who play 20 or 30 years and don’t make a grand final. For our guys, it is the first for some and the fourth straight for others. We will enjoy the moment, have a few beers with the supporters and on Sunday start preparing for Hamilton.”
The result was a reverse of the qualifying final in which Beaches scored a converted try in injury time to win 20-19.
“Beaches are a good side and a team that plays for 80 minutes,” Paasi said. “They played all the way to the death again. We knew we had to keep grinding away at them and things would fall our way and they did.”
In a surprise, Beaches coach Johan Lourens left captain Va Talaileva on the bench and shifted Adrian Delore from fullback to outside centre to try and contain Wanderers danger man Dillon Rowney.
It was a tight contest early. Wanderers had the upper-hand in the scrum and were camped in Beaches quarter in the open exchanges.
Beaches held strong until midway through the half when centre Fillisione Pauta was sent to the sinbin for a high tackle.
Wanderers No.8 Rhys Dombkins crashed over a minute later and Marsh also scored a run away, beating three defenders in a 50-metre dash, with Beaches a man down.
The visitors opened their account with a penalty in the 31st minute.
However, Wanderers struck again when Ashworth crossed for his first from a scrum.
Wanderers fullback Josh McCormack was sent to the bin for a professional foul in the 38th minute as the Two Blues went to the break in control at 17-3.
Beaches needed to scored first in the second half, and they did when prop Jackson McLean charged over after sustained pressure on Wanderers line.
But that was as close as they got. Prop Dave Waller hit and spun to extend the gap to 24-10.
Marty Delore replied for for Beaches, collecting a neat pass from 47th-minute replacement Talaileva, but Wanderers added a penalty to Luke Simmons and try to Ashworth to blow the game open.
“Our pace was one of the differences today,” Paasi said. “They rushed up on us and tried to stop us from getting to the edges. Our backs realised that and found other ways to penetrate their line.”
Lourens, though disappointed with the loss, was proud of the effort.
“We are a small club and at the beginning of the year it was a struggled to get three teams on the field,” he said. “To get this far in the finals was an achievement. Wanderers are well balanced across the park and we paid the prices for missed tackles.”
Lourens said the decision to start with Talaileva on the bench was tactical.
“In the major semi-final against Hamilton in the second half we were really flat,” he said. “We brought Va off the bench against Hamilton a while back [in a 32-14 win in round 16] and we really lifted.”