NHRU | Maitland Blacks beat Nelson Bay 23-15 in do-or-die semi-final at No.2 Sportsground.

MAITLAND hope the boost they gained from Sunday’s thrilling 23-15 win against Nelson Bay at No.2 Sportsground will be enough for them to turn the tables on Merewether in Saturday’s preliminary final at the same venue.

TRIES: Dale Clacherty

TRIES: Dale Clacherty

Merewether beat Maitland 31-29 eight days ago in the opening round of the play-offs, after a last-minute penalty, leaving the Blacks on a tightrope walk to the grand final.

The two sides will clash again this week, with a grand final berth against Hamilton riding on the outcome.

Scores were locked 15-all in Sunday’s do-or-die showdown before Maitland fly-half Patrick Batey attacked a short blind side and put winger Dale Clacherty over for his second try of the game.

Batey missed the sideline conversion attempt, leaving the game in the balance until he kicked a penalty goal in the final minute of play, to end Nelson Bay’s first finals campaign since 2002.

“It was certainly a nerve-racking one,” Maitland co-coach Ryan McCormack said. “It was certainly a good, gritty effort from our boys, and hats off to Nelson Bay. They had a fantastic season.”

Maitland are now only 80 minutes away from their first grand final appearance since 2010.

“It’s been eight years since we last made a grand final in first grade, and there’s a really good vibe around the club and the town,” McComack said. “We’re excited to get another crack at Merewether and hopefully we can avenge our narrow loss last week.”