There was no better place to be for Belt-Up Round on Saturday than at Success Sportsplex for the match of the round where the Southern Lions hosted the Coastal Cavaliers for an invigorating game of rugby promoting the importance of Belting Up whilst driving.
Despite both sides being knocked out of finals contention, the fact of finishing the season on a high combined with bragging rights gave enough weight to the match up that drove both teams to come out firing.
The Southern Lions took control of the game early on, holding most of the possession and territory, whilst the Cavaliers struggled to find their feet in the opening stages with a few mistakes leaking into their game.
It didn’t take long for the home side to draw first blood with a scintillating try through front rower Matt Smith who dotted over in the corner thanks to some quick thinking from co-captain Greg Jackson.
The Cavaliers responded in due course with a try of their own from back-rower Gerard de Klerk who was able to use a great deal of leg-drive at the back of the ruck to drive himself over the try line with ease.
With the Cavaliers taking a slim two-point lead following a successful conversion, the Southern Lions again pushed their way back into the Cavaliers territory after consolidating a number of phases.
Thinking they had secured their second five-pointer of the game the Lions back-rower Nemani Tuitubou pounced on a loose-ball off the back of a lineout only to be held up over the line.
From then on execution would be an issue for the Southern Lions who continuously failed to finish off some electrifying counter attacks.
As the first half started to age, momentum swung in the Cavaliers favour as the Southern Lions discipline started to crumble.
The Cavaliers would go into the sheds at half-time with a slender five-point lead, knowing full well that the home side is mostly like to come out a different beast in the second forty minutes.
The second half saw the big men let off the leash with the front rowers from both teams trading blows with ball in hand.
Taking the front foot early in the second half, the Cavaliers started to punch holes in the Southern Lions defence, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to strike.
Their persistence would soon pay off as Bitner Tumanuvao crossed the white line following a burst of pick and drives from the giant Cavaliers forward pack.
Matthew Griffiths would again keep his excellent form with the boot, easily slotting the conversion to give the Cav’s a healthy 17-5 lead.
Just as the ‘Cavs’ started to pull away, the Lions clawed their way back, however execution continued to be a problem as the ball consistently left their possession without points.
Ultimately, the Lions diagnosed themselves with white line fever as winger Joe Ratusoqosqo caught the Cavaliers off guard at a breakdown and snuck over for a pick and go try just to the right of the goal posts.
In one snap of the fingers the game had opened right up for the home-side looking to steal the game late.
Lions youngster Jonah Naborisi proved a potent weapon for the Lions, displaying some extreme pace whenever he found space down the sideline.
As discipline started to deteriorate referee Tyler Miller stamped her authority on the match dishing out two consecutive yellow cards to the Cavaliers for repeated ruck infringements.
As the predicted rain for the afternoon started to pelt down onto the fields of Success, the pressure began to mount on the Cavaliers.
Soon they would find themselves in more trouble as Lions fly-half Kyle Fell sparked a genius try using a perfectly weighted kick to Gregory Jackson which gave him half the field to run in a late try.
A missed conversion meant the scores were locked up at 17-17 which would set up a thrilling finish in the Belt-Up Match of the Round.
The Coastal Cavaliers were able keep their cool in the final moments of the game that guided them to a classy finish thanks to the dependable boot from the Belt-Up Man of the Match Matthew Griffiths who knocked over two penalty goals in the final ten minutes to put the visitors up by six.
To finish the year the Cavaliers were able to secure their fifth victory of the season which saw them leapfrog the Southern Lions into fifth place as well as taking bragging rights.
While both teams would be disappointed to not be playing any part in the Championship Division semi-finals, they will no doubt be teams to keep an eye out for next season with both clubs continuing to integrate talented young players through their system.