Newcastle Rugby League: Souths reach second grand final in the space of three seasons | photos

Twelve months ago Souths travelled to Cahill Oval for semi-finals and were eliminated by Lakes. 

On Sunday afternoon at the same Belmont venue the Lions turned the tables on that result against the Seagulls and booked the first spot in the 2018 Newcastle Rugby League decider.

Led by a double to five-eighth Ryan Glanville, a mountain of work by Harry Van Dartel and uncompromising lock Tori Freeman, Souths defeated Lakes 20-12 in the major semi-final.

The Lions now progress to the September 23 showdown at McDonald Jones Stadium while minor premiers the Seagulls meet in-form Kurri Kurri at Townson Oval in Sunday’s preliminary final.  

This will be Souths’ second grand final appearance in the space of three seasons, following a drought-breaking title in 2016, and the Lions had to earn their qualification.

“I was most impressed with our defence in the second half,” Souths coach Ben Cross said.

“That willingness to do that little bit extra for each other. Our middle forwards had to play a few extra minutes than they normally do.

“Jayden Hethrington didn’t even get on so we didn’t even use one of our fresh men so the boys had to push a little bit longer.

“Tom Cronan, our right centre, pulled out this morning with tonsillitis, so that forced a reshuffle of the backline and you just hope it doesn’t disrupt things too much.

“All in all, a really good team performance.”

Souths flew out of the blocks.

Winger Jarrod Flanagan scored a try in the opening 60 seconds, Glanville sliced through soon after and three goals, including a penalty, to halfback Jason Keelan saw the Lions ahead 14-0 before the 10-minute mark.

However, Lakes hung tight and by half-time had reduced the margin to just two points courtesy of tries to impressive hooker Daniel Peck and centre Josh Charles within six minutes of one another.

The game hung in the balance for much of the second half. Both teams missed penalty attempts. Lakes in the 63rd minute and Souths in the 73rd minute.

Glanville then produced the match-winning play, almost a carbon copy of his first-half effort, taking on the line and going over next to the sticks in the 74th minute.

“We’ve always encouraged him [Glanville] to run because it really opens up his passing game,” Cross said. 

“That’s one of his strong points being a five-eighth. He’s a bit of a throwback, old school, running five-eighth. The more he can threaten the line, it opens up the holes for his outside men.”

Lakes coach Todd Edwards said “our execution was poor but our effort was good”.

“It was lost in that first 20 minutes. The week off didn’t really help us, but we’ve got things to work on. They are a good side and whoever can beat them are going to know they’ve played well.”

Seagulls second-rower Jarrod Holmgreen suffered a suspected season-ending MCL tear and left the field around the half-hour mark.