With Northern Suburbs, Eastwood and Sydney University all prevailing in the first of the 2022 Shute Shield Qualifying Finals, Sunday’s remaining fixture saw Gordon travel to the formidable Pittwater Rugby Park for a do-or-die date with Warringah.
Despite the home advantage, it was Warringah who would have to overcome a recent form slump, having lost four of their last six matches on the run to the Finals.
Gordon themselves hadn’t had an ideal precursor to a Qualifying Final, squandering an almost definite Round Eighteen victory to the Hunter Wildfires.
With a semi-final date against Randwick the reward for today’s victor, both sides would be desperate to keep their Finals hopes alive at Rat Park.
In perfect rugby conditions, it was Warringah who were awarded the ideal post-season start, with a mistimed Gordon lineout close to their own line gifting awaiting Rats hooker Wes Thomas the opening try of the match.
Gordon responded swiftly, dominating the opening scrum battle and holding possession for the proceeding five minutes.
Eventually that possession broke through the resilient Rats defence, with Stags skipper James Lough crossing for the visitors first.
Only moments later Gordon was over again, with prop Tristan Fuli finishing a swift team effort from the restart to take the Stags lead to a converted try.
With desperate try saving tackles from Reece Macdonald and Harrison Goddard in the opening 20-minutes, it was evident Gordon’s defence was up for whatever Warringah could offer.
However, a scrum penalty just inside the opening quarter offered Rats inside center Tyson Davis a chance to tighten the Stags lead to 12-8.
Following the penalty goal, Gordon was once again on the front-foot, with continued scrum dominance and a Rhett Butler knock-on close to his line offering up another marvelous Stags scoring opportunity.
After a flurry of scrum resets, it was Gordon stalwart Jordan Goddard who bulldozed his way over from close range to see the visitors lead extend to 11-points.
Warringah squandered a certain try moments later, with Charlie Tupu dropping a Wes Thomas offload with only the try line in front of him. However, the home side was still the next to score, with Rats prop Sateki Latu crossing relatively untouched in the 37th minute.
An opportunistic dash from Waratah and Gordon hooker Mahe Vailanu after the halftime siren proved the final act of a seesawing opening forty and restored the visitor's 11-point lead.
With tempers flaring early in the second half, Gordon’s try-fest continued. Amazingly, Will Terry’s try in the 48th minute was the first for a back in the contest, with the Stag winger finishing a scintillating Ben Pollack break to score the fifth of the visitor's afternoon.
Warringah were their own worst enemies in the second forty, with errors and offside penalties squandering any attacking opportunities. A disallowed Rats try due to obstruction in the 55th minute highlighting the home side's afternoon to date.
Despite the Rats dominating possession as the match entered its final quarter, Gordon’s defence remained resolute.
Eventually, the deficit was trimmed, with Sateki Latu’s second try bringing the score to 31-20 and giving Warringah fans some hope.
With the clock ticking down and Warringah desperate to keep the ball in hand, the Rats attacking play became increasingly expansive. However, handling errors and strong Stags edge defence continued to squash the home side's chances of any second-half revival.
The Rats destiny was eventually sealed in the 75th minute, with reserve lock John Akau’ola-Laula storming over to take the final score to 36-20.
Gordon is the only visiting side to record a victory in this year's Qualifying Finals and will now face Randwick in another elimination clash next week.
With Norths and Sydney Uni awarded the week off, next weekend's other semi-final will see Manly host Eastwood at North Sydney Oval.
Qualifying Final Results
Northern Suburbs 34 v 27 Manly
Eastwood 36 v 23 Eastern Suburbs
Sydney University 31 v 29 Randwick
Warringah 20 v 36 Gordon