HAMILTON scored a try at the death to pip Wanderers 34-30 at No.2 Sportsground and all but seal the Newcastle and Hunter minor premiership for a third straight season.
The Two Blues led 18-12 at half-time despite running into a brutal southerly.
The Hawks scored two minutes after the resumption and, like the Two Blues, seemed to play better in to the wind.
The second half ebbed and flowed.
But when Wanderers winger Bill Coffey latched on to a beautiful short ball from replacement halfback Luke Sherwood and carried two defenders across the line for a 30-29 lead with four minutes remaining, it looked like the Two Blues would win and take top spot.
But, like they have done so many times in the past three years, the Hawks found a way back.
Again it was there scrum which proved the difference. Wanderers, who were reduced to 14 men after Ryan Jackson was sent to the sinbin, did well to hold up a Hamilton maul from a five-metre lineout.
The Two Blues had the scrum feed, but the Hawks blasted through the middle and No.8 Steve Sione dived on the ball to score. It was the powerhouse back-rower’s fourth try of the game.
The bonus-point win moved Hamilton four points clear of Wanderers at the top of the table with a round to play.
Elsewhere, fourth-placed Maitland overcame a plucky Lake Macquarie 37-28 at Marcellin Park to seal a finals berth. Fly-half Pate Batey was the star with two big plays in the second half to break the game open.
Merewether remain in fifth place despite going down to Southern Beaches 34-27 at Townson Oval.
Adrian Delore (two), Michael Delore and Martin Delore all scored tries for the visitors.
The Waratahs faint finals hopes came to an end with a 26-19 loss to Nelson Bay at Waratah Oval.
University made it back-to-back win with a come-from-behind 39-31 triumph over Singleton at Rugby Park in a match which had no influence on the finals.
Merewether upset minor premiers University 32-12 in the grand final to win the women’s premiership.
Pointscore: Hamilton 75, Wanderers 71, Southern Beaches 63, Maitland 50, Merewether 45, Lake Macquarie 41, Nelson Bay 38, Waratahs 36, University 32, Singleton 2
Wanderers 30 (Leeland Marshall, Doug Mckillop, Tom Eymael, Will Coffey tries; Luke Simmons 2 con 2 pen) def by Hamilton Hawks 34 (Steve Sione 4, Tueiti Asi, Ratu Delanimate tries, Gareth Tilse 2 con)
Merewether Carlton 27 (Turi Uini 2, Josh Stewart, Corey Nash, Billy Dunn tries; Ed Bacigalupo con) def by Southern Beaches 34 (Adrian Delore 2, Tim Poese, Michael Delore, Martin Delore, Sam Moss tries; Adrian Delore 2 con)
Maitland 37 (John Birrell 2, Mick Howell, Rhys Clacherty tries; Jono Maloney 4 con, 3 pen) def Lake Macquarie 28 (Willie Fraser, Barcelona Lupematasila, Marvin Tauhinu, Kg Lam tries, Brendan Holliday 1 con, 2 pen)
Singleton 31 (Bailey Mason, Nathan Brennan, Dan Malloy, Sheldon Swart, Rapine Mason tries; Hareangi Meihana 3 con ) def by University of Newcastle 39 (Sam Berry 2, Jack Cooke, Dan Wells, Andrew Serhan tries, Fausto Delli Carpini 4 con, 2 pen)
The Waratahs 17 (John Taufaao, Inoke Rokotolu, Chase Hicks tries, Sione Olive con) def by Nelson Bay 26
Wanderers 28 (tries R Dombkins 2, I Battilana, con N Fay 2, pen N Fay 3) def Hamilton Hawks 19 (tries J Lagilaginonacakacaka, N Church, K Ward, con J Finn 2)
Merewether Carlton 50 (tries W Frost 2, K Sykiotis 2, F Uini, J Hetherington, L Swan, C Sheridan, con I King 3, J Hetherington 2) def Southern Beaches 12 (tries R James, L McDonald, con M Westley)
Maitland 80 (H De Rocquigny 2, R Chappell 2, A Everett 2, C punch 2, S Connolly, J Cassidy, J Lantry, P Armstrong, con C punch 10) def Lake Macquarie 0
Singleton 17 (tries B Merrick, T Salanoa, M Lindeblad, con D Bates) def by Newcastle University 50 (tries L Routledge 2, H Towle 2, J Kotris, D Mcqueeney, J Wilkinson, B Roberts, con M Handley 5)
The Waratahs 42 (tries K Binge 2, M Peter 2, S Masina, M Grinham, con J Twomey 6) def Nelson Bay 7
Round SF: Merewether Carlton (1) 14 (tries B Fleming, L Milton, con J Walker 2) def by Wanderers 20 (tries N Mylonas 2, J Paterson, con J Burnham, pen J Burnham)
Maitland 19 (tries L Rees 2, A Keepence, con J Hill 2) drew Merewether Carlton (2) 19 (tries L Miller, T Crowe, L Arnold, con T Crowe 2)
Round 17: Wanderers 7 (tries T Henderson, con L Menchin) def by Hamilton Hawks 10 (tries M Holmes, con P Dan, pen P Dan)
Merewether Carlton (2) 31 (tries N Sykiotis, C Baker, J Miller, T Wait, T Cady, con T Wait 3) def Southern Beaches 10 (tries M Ikinofo, A Brooks)
Maitland 59 def Lake Macquarie 7 (tries M Clarke, con M Clarke)
Singleton 12 (tries T kingi, B roberts, con D Bates) def by Newcastle University 19 (tries C Reilly, N Mahood, J Hazell, con C Handley 2)
Merewether Carlton (1) 36 (tries T Newman 2, D Spiteri 2, D Campbell, D Kelso, con D Kelso 3) def Medowie & Districts 7
Round 17: Cooks Hill (2) 0 def by Griffins 28; Pokolbin 7 def by Southern Lakes 14; Cessnock 12 def by Easts (2) 15; Cooks Hill (1) 5 (trys N Dutton) def by Easts (1) 7
Round 11: Hamilton Hawks 24 def by Merewether Carlton 36 (tries A Carrall 2, L Tresidder, B O'Donnell, N Garner, C Bennett, con S Robson 3)
Maitland 61 def Southern Beaches 0