Shepparton Bulls 22 d
The Shepparton Bulls can now turn their gaze to the upcoming finals series, after toughing out a gritty eight-point win against Bendigo at the weekend.
It's been known for a number of weeks that Mark Stevens and his rugby union outfit would feature in finals action and attempt to defend their premiership crown.
However, after a superb end to the home and away season in the Victoria Rugby Championship, the Bulls can now gear up for their finals assault.
The Bulls pushed aside a poor first half against the Miners to grind out a stirring victory.
With head coach Stevens unavailable for the round 15 win at Bendigo, injured flanker Moronae Silaga handled the coaching reins.
"We gave a lot of young stars the opportunity to start the match," Silaga said.
"We saw the future of the Shepparton Bulls running around which was great to see."
Many of the Bulls' senior players started the game on the bench, and after a shaky start to the game, their experienced performers were able to stand tall.
Silaga praised the efforts of Bulls captain Lee-Roy Huthmann-Grace and fullback Suiluma Onolima-Iulio.
"In the first half we lost the ball too many times," he said.
"But that changed in the second half.
"During the half-time break, we just told the boys to go out and enjoy the game, no matter the result.
"And to their credit, both Lee-Roy and Suiluma led the way for the young guys.
"I was proud of the way we finished the match."
For the first weekend of finals, Shepparton returns home this Saturday and welcomes Bendigo in a hotly anticipated semi-final.
Having defeated the Miners at the weekend, the Bulls will head in with plenty of confidence for the do-or-die final.
The home side will be bolstered by the return of Silaga to the line-up, as he overcomes a shoulder injury.
Silaga is expecting the Miners to be breathing fire, but said he was looking forward to the challenge of playing in finals again.
"Bendigo will come out fired up that's for sure," he said.
"But we are all really looking forward to this weekend.
"Hopefully we can get some good support at home.
"We are very excited to be back playing finals and we hope we can get a big crowd to cheer us on."
Saturday's semi-final against Bendigo will begin at 3pm at Shepparton's Vibert Reserve.