Newcastle rugby: Wanderers earn another date with Hamilton in decider

TRY TIME: Wanderers' No.8 Rhys Dombkins plants the ball on the line in the Two Blues' 34-20 win over Southern Beaches. Picture: Stewart Hazell
TRY TIME: Wanderers' No.8 Rhys Dombkins plants the ball on the line in the Two Blues' 34-20 win over Southern Beaches. Picture: Stewart Hazell

THERE is very little that Wanderers do not know about Hamilton and vice versa.

The two powerhouse clubs have featured in the biggest and best games in the NHRU over the past four years.

On Saturday, they will meet in the grand final at No.2 Sportsground for a third straight year.

Again, the Two Blues had to qualify the hard way, beating Southern Beaches 34-20 in the preliminary final.

The result was a reverse of the qualifying final in which Beaches scored a converted try in injury time to win 20-19. Wanderers bounced back with a 59-5 hammering of Maitland in the minor semi-final to set up Saturday’s rematch with Beaches.

“Beaches are a good side and a team that plays for 80 minutes,” Wanderers coach Viv Paasi said.  “We knew we had to keep grinding away at them and things would fall our way and they did.”

Minor premiers Hamilton, who are celebrating their 50th year, had the luxury of a weekend off after beating Southern Beaches 27-10 in the major semi-final.

The grand final match-up is hardly a surprise. The Hawks and Wanderers finished one-two. At one point they were four wins clear of the chasing pack.

Wanderers have lost both encounters to the Hawks this season, going down 20-18 at Passmore Oval and 34-30 at No.2 Sportsground.

“It is about time we beat them,” Wanderers coach Viv Paasi said. “We know each other pretty well. We will do a few bits and pieces on them but the way to win big games is by worrying about yourself. That is what we have done in the past fortnight and I think it has shown. There is definitely things we need to tidy up from Saturday’s game – our restarts and other things. There were a few bits and pieces that weren’t as good as last week.”

Against Beaches, Wanderers led 17-3 at half-time and were always in control. Beaches fought hard and closed to 24-15 in the second half, before the Two Blues skipped away again.

In the end, Beaches couldn’t handle the pace of Wanderers flyers Tim Mash (one try), George Ashworth (two tries), Dillon Rowney and Josh McCormack.

Beaches coach Johan Lourens, who will hand the reins over next season, was frustrated at the stop-start nature of the game and the decision by referee Brendon Farrar to sinbin centre Filisione Pauta for a high tackle in the first half.

Wanderers fullback Josh McCormack and replacement Mark Sherwood also received yellow cards.

“It was so stop-start,” Lourens said. “We wanted to play rugby.”

Apart from the outside backs, breakaway Ben Ham, lock Marcus Christensen, halfback Luke Sherwood and prop Leeland Marshall were strong for the Two Blues.

“Hammy is one of the guys who rarely gets noticed, and then you watch the video and he has done three times as much work as anyone else,” Paasi said. “It means a lot to him to play the grand final. He has played in the last four as has Boo (Sherwood), Luke Simmons, Cal McDonald, Ben Christensen and Billy Coffey. There is a bit of experience there.”