Southern Districts will host defending premiers Northern Suburbs in their Shute Shield qualifying final on Sunday after an epic 34-30 victory over Randwick.
The Rebels came from behind with a try in the final two minutes to replacement prop Matt Gibbon to secure second place in what was essentially a play-off for a top two finish at Coogee Oval on Saturday.
The win was also Souths’ ninth in a row, an incredible streak going back to the start of June.
Manly (74) Southern Districts (66) Warringah (65) Randwick (64) Northern Suburbs (60) Eastwood (55)2017 Shield Shield final standings
But the Rebels will be missing Dewet Roos for the clash with Norths after the halfback’s season was ended a fortnight ago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament requiring a knee reconstruction. Souths will be down to their third string scrum half after Elijah Pilz tore his hamstring in the dying stages of the win over Randwick.
That means 23-year-old Souths junior Sam Harris will likely get a crack in the No.9 jersey on Sunday.
The Rebels took the lead against Randwick inside the opening minute when Pilz crossed after a Jed Holloway break.
Randwick hit back with two tries and a penalty before man of the match Brandon Paenga-Amosa scored the first of his two tries from a line out and subsequent maul. A penalty try to Souths gave them a 22-18 lead at the break before the hosts fought back to lead with two minutes to go.
But a bullocking run from Gibbon saw the reserve prop crash over for the match-winning try. The Rebels were made to work for it in the dying stages, desperately defending almost 20 phases after the final siren.
It is the first time since the club was formed in 1989 that Souths have had first and second grade as well as first and second grade colts sides qualify for the finals.
Southern Districts general manager Warren Robilliard said it demonstrated the strength in depth at the club.
“We’ve got such depth right behind first grade and obviously through our colts. It is a reflection of the hard work done by many people at the club,” he said.
“We want the biggest supporter base we can get here on Sunday. We really want to fill the hill and support the boys”.
The loss saw Randwick slip from second to fourth, with the Galloping Greens to face third-placed Warringah at Pittwater Park. Minor premiers Manly host Eastwood in the remaining qualifying final at Manly Oval.