Illawarra have kept their Intrust Super Premiership title defence alive with a thrilling 30-26 elimination final win over the Mounties at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Sunday.
It was a shaky start for Illawarra who put themselves under immense pressure due to ill-discipline; it allowed the Mounties to cross for the first try of the afternoon in the third minute through William Cullen.
The Mounties struck again in the 25th minute through Michael Oldfield who forced an error from the scrum to go ahead 12-0.
Illawarra quickly turned their first half fortunes around by running in three tries in five minutes via Jai Field, Sam Clune and Taane Milne. As a result Illawarra were ahead 16-12 at half-time.
Illawarra started the second half in better stead when Field kicked a penalty goal to extend his side's lead to a converted try.
A short while later, interchange forward Josh Kerr dived on a Jack Payne kick to extend Illawarra's lead to 12 points.
However, it wasn't long until the defending premiers reverted back to their earlier ill-discipline ways.
The Mounties were able to capitalise with two quick tries to Yileen Gordon and Scott Sorensen as a result – Illawarra's lead was narrowed to two points in the meantime.
Mounties mounted further pressure before crossing for their fifth four-pointer of the afternoon thanks to Oldfield as they regained a two-point lead.
For the second week in a row, Illawarra delivered a clutch play in the dying stages when Field raced 80-metres downfield to score underneath the posts, securing a 30-26 victory.
The magic offload from Luciano Leilua to set Field's match-winner up secured Illawarra's finals berth in week two. They will play the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs this Sunday afternoon at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah.
Illawarra 30 (Jai Field 2, Taane Milne, Sam Clune, Josh Kerr; Jai Field 5 goals) defeated Mounties 26 (Michael Oldfield 2, William Cullen, Yileen Gordon, Scott Sorensen tries; Maurice Kennedy 3 goals) at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Half-time: Illawarra 16-12.