THE Muswellbrook Rams are one win away from erasing last year’s disappointment, following the side’s 28-10 victory over the Singleton Greyhounds at Olympic Park on Saturday evening.
The 18-point triumph in the major semi-final will allow the club to host the BHP Billiton Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League decider for the second consecutive season.
And, it’s a chance to snare glory after the Scone Thoroughbreds prevailed in 2016.
“That’s a big relief,” Muswellbrook president Kurt Dial said.
“But, the boys defended brilliantly today.
“It was a terrific effort.”
Nothing can be taken away from the Greyhounds performance either.
Singleton lost two key forwards, Josh Desmond and Chris Martin, in the first half, however still rallied strongly, despite trailing 16-0 at one stage.
The Rams had their injury woes, too, with forward Liam Dunn and centre Jacob Ellis spending a chunk of time on the sidelines.
In the end, it was Muswellbrook’s ability to repel repeated sets of six on their line, which proved the difference.
After the “softening up period”, and with Will Nieuwenhuise in the sin bin, Ellis split the Greyhounds out wide to post first points in the 13th minute. Jake Hardy missed the kick but the Rams led 4-0.
A fortuitous bounce, which was touched by Singleton, enabled five-eighth Ewin Bartholomew to extend that advantage. Hardy landed the conversion for a 10-0 margin.
Two minutes later, a brilliant ball was popped to halfback Cade Boney, who found an unmarked Hardy in support. He added the extras for a 16-0 scoreline.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Singleton second-rower Zac Solman barged his way over. Nieuwenhuise raised the flags, for 16-6, and the hopes of the Greyhounds faithful in the crowd.
The visitors began the second period in fine form.
And, when Muswellbrook forward Reggie Saunders received a stint in the sin bin, Singleton found its way back in the game at 16-10, courtesy of Solman’s second try.
A Greyhounds’ mistake, from the resumption, gave the Rams possession again and classy winger Daniel Ellis made them pay dearly. Hardy then improved the team’s situation at 22-10.
Muswellbrook wrapped up proceedings 28-10 when Corey Holman touched down in the 79th minute. Hardy booted goal number four – and the squad into the grand final on Saturday, September 2.
MUSWELLBROOK RAMS 28 (Jacob Ellis, Ewin Bartholomew, Jake Hardy, Daniel Ellis, Corey Holman tries; Hardy 4 goals) defeated SINGLETON GREYHOUNDS 10 (Zac Solman 2 tries; Will Nieuwenhuise goal)