Leeton into grand final after big win over Waratahs

TOUGH DEFENCE: Leeton's Tim Rolls and Adriu Tagilala wrap up Xavier Chigwidden in the win over Waratahs to book a place in the grand final. Picture: Laura Hardwick

TOUGH DEFENCE: Leeton's Tim Rolls and Adriu Tagilala wrap up Xavier Chigwidden in the win over Waratahs to book a place in the grand final. Picture: Laura Hardwick

Leeton are one win away from completing a perfect season and securing their first premiership since 1991.

The Phantoms put in a powerful second half performance to ensure they will take hosting rights for this year’s decider.

After a tight first half, Leeton scored six to two in the second half to take a 66-27 victory in the major semi-final at Leeton No.1 Oval on Saturday.

Winger Joe Ratu showed his class early.

He scored a hat-trick in the first half and then added a fourth before coming off with a hip complaint.

The flying Fijian opened the scoring after six minutes when completing the first of many long range tries for the Phantoms.

Just as it has been all season, their ability to capitalise on the counterattack shone through and helped the club to their first grand final appearance since 1998.

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Coach Marika Vunibaka was impressed by how his team were able to overcome Waratahs after a tight first half.

“The Waratahs came out firing in the first 20 minuted, but I was pretty happy with how the boys held on,” Vunibaka said.

“I told them at half-time the Waratahs boys were starting to get tired so we needed to use width and get the ball wider and wider and make them run.

“They did that so I am pretty happy.”

Waratahs led twice in the first half before Noa Rabici scored right before half-time to give the Phantoms a 26-15 lead at the break.

It looked as though it was going to be Waratahs who would score from a rolling maul only for Sam Donelan to award Leeton a penalty and they worked the ball down the field to score.

Waratahs coach Angus Macleod labelled the moment as the turning point of the game.

“We were literally about to score, or it was going to be a penalty try, and they went the length,” Macleod said.

“It was a 14-point deficit to start with so that was the turning point.”

While Jock Munro crashed over for his second try 34 seconds after the break, Waratahs couldn’t maintain possession well enough as they started to slip behind.

And Leeton didn’t need too many invitations to score.

Tries to Ratu and James Moore had the Phantoms up 40-20 after 47 minutes.

Emori Vueti added to Leeton’s advantage before Waratahs hit back as Corey Toole showed plenty of speed to score a 60-metre try with 16 minutes to play.

However any hope of the Wagga club storming back into the contest was quickly snuffed out.

Josevata Tuidreke, Tim Rolls and Petero Taitusi all scored late to seal a dominant win.

Vunibaka was worried by how the team would react after the week off during the first stage of the finals.

While those fears didn’t come to fruition, he’s hoping they can use the same 

“It different ways it is good and it is bad,” Vunibaka said.

“I hope the boys can get up for a couple of weeks time.”