A field goal from Cutters halfback Drew Hutchison proved the difference in Illawarra's 21-20 victory over minor premiers Mounties in the Intrust Super Premiership Grand Final at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With six minutes left on the clock Hutchison produced the one-point play on his first attempt of the afternoon from 20 metres out to steal victory from the Mounties – whose grand final defeat was just their fourth loss of the season.
Zac Santo's 43rd-minute try helped the Mounties to the lead for the first time in the game but they failed to kick on from there in a tough second half.
Winger Kalifa Faifai Loa's second try of the game in the 65th minute drew the Cutters level at 20-all, leaving Hutchison to do the rest with the game on the line.
Mounties halfback Sam Williams had a chance to send the game into golden point extra time in the final five seconds but his 40-metre field goal attempt sailed to the right of the uprights.
The Cutters will now face the Burleigh Bears in next weekend's NRL State Championship following their 26-16 Intrust Super Cup grand final victory over the Redcliffe Dolphins.
The Mounties were left to lament their slow start out of the blocks in the first 15 minutes.
The Cutters took just three minutes to record first points through centre Levi Dodd who snuck over on the short-side from dummy half following long-range runs the tackle prior from Josh McCrone and Kurt Mann.
Mann scored in the corner in the 10th minute after a deft Adam Quinlan grubber while fellow winger Faifai Loa crossed three minutes later.
Faifai Loa's try came from a huge Hutchison bomb which Santo opted against catching. The result was a favourable bounce for the Cutters which was kicked along by McCrone for Faifai Loa to score.
Illawarra were unlucky not to make it 20-0 after 16 minutes when Mann was disallowed a second after video referees Steve Chiddy and Ben Galea ruled he was offside from an earlier kick.
The Mounties responded less than a minute later when a wicked three-man cut-out ball from Williams landed on the chest of try-scoring winger Eddie Aiono.
A magic dummy-half ball from Adam Clydsdale saw the Mounties score again through Sam Duggan in the 25th minute.
Mounties five-eighth Maurice Kennedy looked destined to score from a Williams grubber under the uprights in the 32nd minute but slipped over and lost the ball.
Back-rower Scott Sorenson made no mistake just before half-time when he crossed out wide but it wouldn't be enough for the Mounties to claim victory.
Earlier in the day, East Campbelltown Eagles produced a massive upset in the Sydney Shield decider after emerging 32-24 winners over minor premiers Mounties.
It was better news for the Mounties in Ron Massey Cup after beating St Marys 36-16. NRL Rookie runner-up Jordan Martin scored two tries in the big win.
Illawarra Cutters 21 (Kalifa Faifai Loa 2, Levi Dodd, Kurt Mann tries; Levi Dodd 2 goals; Drew Hutchison field goal) defeated Mounties 20 (Eddie Aiono, Sam Duggan, Scott Sorenson, Zac Santo tries; Sam Williams 2 goals) at Pirtek Stadium. Half-time: Cutters 16-14.