The Illawarra Steelers Tarsha Gale Cup side have qualified for preliminary final following their 26-20 win over the Cronulla Sharks at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
The win for the girls means they have earned the week off, and will face the winner of the Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers semi-final clash.
Coach Daniel Lacey was proud of his side's performance, which a hat-trick to Lilly-Rose Bennett.
"The best thing about finishing in the top four is that you get the opportunity to get a week off. The girls put in a massive performance to be able to drag a win out and we thoroughly deserve the week off," Lacey said.
"We made a couple of positional changes and that worked in our favour. There were a couple of standouts too. Abby Holmes played the whole game and defended time after time while Nyeasha (Hoskins-Moore) excelled in a hooker role.
"We’re going to train as if we do have a game this week and we're not going to take the foot off the pedal. We want to maintain our form through the semis so it’ll be back to the drawing board to work out what we need to do to get the next win."
Illawarra Steelers 26 (Lilly-Rose Bennett 3, Keeley Davis, Leanne Jackson tries; Keeley Davis, Leanne Jackson, Nyeasha Hoskins-Moore 1 goal) defeated Cronulla Sharks 20 (Akira Kelly 2, Olivia Quinn, Tayla Preston tries; Akira Kelly 2 goals) at Leichhardt Oval. Half-time: Sharks 20-16.
The Illawarra Steelers Harold Matthews side faced their biggest challenge of the season, up against undefeated minor premiers the Newcastle Knights, and fell just short following their 40-30 loss at Hammondville Oval, Moorebank on Saturday.
It took just seven minutes for the Knights to open the scoring when Patrick Achurch found space out wide to score in the corner.
The Knights were at it again just three minutes later when fullback Bradman Best went straight through to score.
Things went from bad to worse for the Steelers with the Knights once again exposing the Illawarra right hand defence as Achurch crossed for his second try.
Steelers skipper Connor Muhleisen barged over from dummy half soon after to get his side the board, to bring the scoreline back to within eight points.
With the momentum shifted and possession starting to favour the Steelers, Jayden Sullivan was able to carry five defenders across the try-line to help bring his side back within two.
The Knights weren’t about to let their lead slip as Max Buderus made the Steelers defenders look silly when he scored a soft tries three minutes later to make it 20-12.
Right on half-time, Achurch grabbed his third try of the game. The goal went unconverted and Newcastle went into the sheds up 24-12.
The Steelers had a new lease on life early in the second half when a beautiful Sullivan cross-field kick was taken by centre Max Feagai to bring the Steelers back within a converted try.
Five minutes later, skipper Muhleisen caught the Knights defenders napping when he put a grubber in behind for Duke Grant to score – the scores locked up at 24-all as a result.
That was short lived however as Newcastle back-rower, Riley Meyn made light work of the Steelers defence by evading three defenders to score out wide.
The Steelers showed their determination however when interchange forward Lucas Fletcher barged his way over for his side's final try.
Two late Newcastle tries from centre Darcy Heaney and winger Malie-J Townsend helped them to the eventual 10-point win.
Sullivan saw plenty of positives in defeat.
"We just need to get our defensive processes right, they just beat us on the outside every time. They are little things that we can fix and we’ll be back bigger and better," Sullivan said.
"When we had a try scored against us we just dug deep, made up for our mistakes and get rid of the errors."
Coach Ben Linde was pleased by the Steelers' efforts despite the defeat.
"I'm very happy with the guys. They fought real hard and I knew they wouldn’t go down without a fight because this team keeps working hard for each other."
Newcastle Knights 40 (Patrick Achurch 3, Bradman Best, Max Buderus, Riley Meyn, Darcy Heaney, Malie J-Townsend tries, Max Buderus 4 goals) defeated Illawarra Steelers 30 (Connor Muhleisen, Max Feagai, Duke Grant, Lucas Fletcher tries, Jayden Sullivan 5 goals) at Hammondville Oval, Moorebank. Half-time: Knights 24-12.
The Illawarra Steelers SG Ball team ended the finals campaign of the Western Suburbs Magpies following their 42-18 win at Hammondville Oval, Moorebank on Saturday Afternoon.
The Steelers scored one of the quickest tries of the season when a beautiful pass from fullback Tyson Simpson set up winger Jiye Ellis in the corner.
Nine minutes later, a cross-field kick from halfback Blair Grant was taken by Ellis who planted the ball down for his second try.
Samuel McCann and Jye Richards were the other first half try scorers for the Magpies before half-time, while Wests' Ruatapu Ngatikaupa scored on the buzzer to give the Magpies a sniff at 20-6.
Any chance of a Magpies comeback was shattered early in the second half when a determined Simpson proved too strong for the Wests defenders to hold out.
Three minutes later, a 60-metre runaway try to Simpson put the game out of reach for the Magpies as the score blew out to 30-6.
The Steelers scored two more tries through centre Drew Gough, while Ellis scored his third.
Two consolation tries for the Magpies through lock Lucas Castle and fullback Blake Clayton saw the Steelers record a 24-point win.
Halfback Blair Grant shared his thoughts following the big win.
"It was a good performance. Our line speed was good and we just rolled over the top of them on the back of our ball work out the back," Grant said.
“With my kicking game, I’m just looking to build pressure. My personal game has evolved as the season has gone on, but I still have a lot to learn."
Coach, Shane Millard was happy with the performance of his team.
"We have a very good footy team, some really good football players that can score plenty of points. Our biggest thing is, when we’ve been beaten this year, it’s not through a lack of effort," Millard said.
"All we spoke about this week was defence drills, ruck defence, goal-line defence and edge defence which we did well.
"They didn’t let themselves down and they deserve to be in the finals. They’ve worked hard this year and put a lot of time and effort into their game."
Illawarra Steelers 42 (Jiye Ellis 3, Tyson Simpson 2, Samuel McCann, Jye Richards, Drew Gough tries, Zaan Weatherall 4 goals) defeated Western Suburbs Magpies 18 (Ruatapu Ngatikaupa, Lucas Castle, Blake Clayton tries, James Tautaiolefua 3 goals) at Hammondville Oval, Moorebank. Half-time: Steelers 20-6.
Finals Week Two Fixtures:
Illawarra Steelers (4th) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (5th) at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday, 1:30pm
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (3rd) v Illawarra Steelers (7th) at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday, 3pm