Southern Districts’ long wait for a premiership continues after the Rebels had their Shute Shield season ended by a 47-18 loss to Northern Suburbs.
Souths had won nine games in a row to finish second and earn the right to host Norths at Forshaw Rugby Park in their preliminary final on Sunday. But Eastwood’s upset 40-34 win over minor premiers Manly on Saturday meant the match had become an elimination final for the Rebels.
Souths junior Sam Harris was handed the No.9 jersey in the absence of Dewet Roos and Elijah Pilz through injury, with Luke Smart moving into the centres.
The reigning premiers dominated much of the first half, strangling Souths out of the match as they enjoyed the bulk of possession and territory. Though the Rebels will point to a disallowed try to Harris just before half-time which killed Souths’ momentum.
Rohan Saifoloi gave the Rebels an early lead with a penalty goal before Norths immediately hit back with Lachlan Creagh’s 13th try of the season. Harris had a kick charged down close to his own line, with the ball spinning under the hands of Souths fullback Jamie Verran for Creagh to run through and score.
Norths had their second try just before the half hour mark when Sam Kitchen barged over from a lineout and subsequent maul to give Norths a 14-3 lead.
The Rebels reduced the deficit with another Saifoloi penalty before Souths, with a pack 62-kilograms heavier than the visitors, enjoyed a spell of possession and field position on the back of their scrum.
But Souths were denied any reward after Harris crashed over from close range on the back of good work from Jed Holloway, only for referee Angus Gardner to rule Harris had lost the ball just short of the line.
That decision proved costly. With Souths trailing 14-6 at the break, Norths extended their lead with a pair of tries 10 minutes into the second half.
The first came from a hopeful high kick from Augustin Slowik with Richie Woolf climbing high to mark the ball and run 30 metres to score. The second came a minute later when Norths went almost the length of the field before shifting left for Cameron Clark to touch down.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rebels as they lost Harris to a head knock before Souths got themselves back into the game when Smart crossed out wide.
But just when it looked like the Rebels would set up a big finish, Norths forward Gary Bautz picked up a loose ball from a breakdown and raced 30 metres untouched to score under the posts.
The Shoremen sealed victory when Woolf swooped on a Verran pass to take an intercept and run away to score before a late Harry Burey try added further gloss to the score. Alex Gibbon scored a late consolation try for the Rebels.
2017 Shute Shield preliminary final
Northern Suburbs 47 (Richie Woolf two, Lachlan Creagh, Sam Kitchen, Cameron Clark, Gary Bautz, Harry Burey tries. Angus Sinclair six conversions)
Southern Districts Rebels 18 (Luke Smart, Alex Gibbon tries. Rohan Saifoloi conversion, two penalty goals)
at Forshaw Rugby Park, Sylvania