A sunny winter afternoon at Lank Bain stadium at Wauchope set the scene for the major semi final game between the Laurieton Stingrays and South West Rocks Marlins.
A large crowd gathered, keen to see who would progress first to the 2019 Hastings League grand final.
Both sides deserved a place after dominating a healthy Saturday league competition. Each going into the game having one game a piece within the regular season.
A strong start for the Rays showed their attacking flair .A good lead-up found young winger Lleyton Winter make a break down the right side passing an inside ball to strong running Captain/Coach Tom McGuire to score - Rays 6 -0 .
The next set of six saw the Rays immediately on the attack again punching up field.
A half break by Jackson Harper put Kieren Ford through the defensive line to dash through to the Marlins' 40, before drawing and passing to the ever present fullback Cooper Lewis-Bain.
Cooper managed to pop up a nice ball to Kieren Roberts who scored under the posts.
A second conversion by centre Kieren Ford gave the Rays a healthy lead of 12 -0.
Marlins found their first points at the 15th minute mark with good ball movement to the left wing seeing winger Josh Trindall score out wide.
From this point, the Marlins found fortune in possession for the majority of the remaining half. Despite the Marlins throwing everything they had in attack at the Rays, it proved fruitless against a great defensive effort.
Coming out of the sheds 12-4 up at half time, the game continued to be in the balance.
At the 50th minute, crafty and experienced halfback Dean Rogerson dummied his way through the line and made a break up field before finding Winter down the right flank to score out wide.
Conversion unsuccessful, Rays were up 16-4. Marlins fought back not long after, scoring an unconverted try through centre Curtley Scott.
Mitch O'Neill's day was cut short after he was knocked out by Marlins' front rower Steve Walker, also left the field with a sin bin.
A late try to Lleyton Winter and conversion from Ford saw the game wrapped up at 22-8 much to the pleasure of the Stingrays supporters - proud of their local boys and their hard working efforts
Captain/Coach McGuire was really happy with the boys.
"We've trained really hard all year and its now paying off," he said.
He said the plans to keep building, to stick to their game plan, and play their own brand of footy.
Mitch O'Neill and Cam Smith played above their weight as they do each and every game.
The bookends Correy McFarlane and Dane Gunning showed grit and determination, as did their replacements Luke Begnell and Sam Black.
Dean Rogerson and Drew Bartlett showed finesse when given the opportunity and weren't afraid to take the hard yards when needed.
Centres Zak Aylward and Kieren Ford were safe in defence and punishing in attack.
Back rowers McGuire and Harper proved to be impenetrable on the edges.
The back three of Lewis-Bain, Winter and Roberts frustrated attacking raids from a clever Marlins attack. Ryan Cronin also held his own when on field.
The grand final at Lank Bain Stadium, Wauchope is on Saturday, August 17.
The Stingrays will take on the winner from the game between Beechwood Shamrocks and South West Rocks Marlins.
Get behind your local team - a supporters bus will be available - call into the Laurieton Hotel for a drink and book your seat or give them a call. Flap you Rays!