Minor premiers Wests advanced to the Illawarra Coal Cup grand final with a 26-16 win over Helensburgh in the major semi-final at WIN Stadium yesterday.
Wests controlled the second half after the scores were 4-all at the interval establishing a 26-4 lead before the Tigers scored two late converted tries.
Premiers for the past three years, Wests will defend their title, this time under the coaching of Reece Simmonds in his first season at the Red Devils’ helm after taking over as head coach from Paul McGregor.
Helensburgh will play Thirroul at WIN Stadium on Sunday for the right to play Wests in the premiership decider at the same venue on September 2.
‘‘We were very good. It took us a half-hour to crack them. They gave us that one opportunity after half an hour and we took it. We put them under a little bit of pressure late in that half,’’ Simmonds said.
‘‘Obviously we got a bit of luck off the kick-off and there was probably no turning back.’’
Helensburgh scored in the sixth minute when centre Grant Smith dotted down from a Jarrod Boyle grubber kick into Wests in-goal.
Both teams tried to gain the ascendancy before Carl Fritz equalised for Wests in the 28th minute.
A dreadful error by Helensburgh from the kick-off to re-start the second-half cost them dearly when they messed up catching the football and it rolled into touch.
Wests pounced from the 10-metre scrum, five-eighth Nathan Dureau carving through to score inside the first minute of the second half.
Halfback Blake Dureau converted from near the touchline and Wests were ahead 10-4.
Wests stretched their lead with further tries to captain and lock Brendan Oake, converted by Blake Dureau, in the 56th minute, winger Lance Wright on the hour and Nathan Dureau, converted by Blake Dureau, in the 65th minute.
Tigers fullback Ryan Cullen and centre Ben Haran scored late tries both converted from near touch by captain and halfback Andrew Dallalana.
Minor premiers Wests lost all three lower grade major semi-finals, to Helensburgh 30-6 in second grade, 24-20 to Mount Kembla in Coal Shield and 34-16 to Shellharbour in under 18s.
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