Wests Tigers versus Canberra Raiders was a hard slog for both teams with the Tigers coming out on top in this elimination final.
A record crowd of 26, 476, saw the Wests Tigers lead from start to finish who now face St George-Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium next Saturday night.
Wests Tigers started well through possession which saw lock Chris Heighington come close to scoring in the corner.
Wests Tigers opened the scoring in the seventh minute through lock Chris Heighington.
It came off the back of a bull-dozing run by prop Keith Galloway when he ran over the top of Canberra hooker Glen Buttriss before being pulled down 10 metres short of the line.
On the next play, the ball was spread right with five-eighth Benji Marshall brushing off an attempted tackle before turning in a behind the back inside flick pass for Heighington to score.
Marshall converted the try for a 6-0 lead.
Canberra opened their account when former Wests Tigers back-rower Bronson Harrison brushed past Galloway to use his strength to beat full-back Mitch Brown to crash over out wide in a 10 metre run. Centre Jarrod Croker converted the try for a 6-6 scoreline after 15 minutes.
Two minutes later, Wests Tigers regained the lead when second-rower Gareth Ellis ran a great line to hit a gap off a Marshall pass to score behind the posts. It came off a drop ball by Canberra prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. Marshall converted the try for a 12-6 lead after 18 minutes.
Wests Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri then stretched the lead to 16-6 when he finished off a set play from a scrum win to score under the posts in the 24th minute.
Half-back Robert Lui fed the ball with hooker Robbie Farah at lock. Farah picked the ball up from the scrum base, gave the ball to Lui, who then drew in the winger to send Tuqiri on a 55 metre run to beat Canberra full-back Josh Duggan to bring the ball around and place it under the posts.
Marshall converted the try for an 18-6 lead after 25 minutes.
Canberra hit back in the 27th minute when centre Joel Monaghan scored next to the posts from a tap after Harrison sliced through the tackle of Chris Lawrence to draw in Brown for Monaghan to score.
Croker converted the try to make it 18-12 after 29 minutes.
The Raiders applied plenty of pressure in the final minutes of the first half but Wests Tigers scrambled well in defence to keep them at bay for an 18-12 lead at the break.
In the second half, Heighington was hit with a swinging left arm by prop Scott Logan in the 46th minute. He was replaced on report with Heighington escorted off the field by two trainers. He was replaced by Simon Dwyer.
A repeat set of six led to Lawrence scoring in the corner in 49th minute after the ball was shifted left through quick hands following another strong run by Galloway on the previous play.
Marshall converted the try from the sideline with the ball floating through on the inside of the right posts to give Wests Tigers a 24-12 lead.
Canberra got back to 24-16 when forward Trevor Thurling spun in a tackle to score after Harrison managed to offload in a three man tackle to Learoyd-Lahrs who offloaded to Thurling to score. Croker converted the try to leave the Raiders trailing 24-18.
The try came at a price after Campese suffered a left knee injury in stepping and left the field with trainers following the try.
Heighington returned to the field after recovering from the swinging arm to his jaw.
Lawrence pulled off a massive play when he tackled Josh Dugan into touch after he regathered a kick through from Tuqiri before beating him.
It gave Wests Tigers a scrum feed 10 metres out from the Raiders tryline in the 67th minute.
Referee Jared Maxwell then penalised Canberra in front of their posts for Learoyd-Lahrs lying all over prop Bryce Gibbs and not letting him to get up and play the ball.
Marshall converted the try to give Wests Tigers a 26-18 lead after 69 minutes.
A chip kick on the last tackle by Croker saw Ayshford knock the ball on to give Canberra a scrum feed 25 metres out. Fortunately the Wests Tigers defence held firm before a mistake by Canberra in the ensuring six saw Wests Tigers get the ball back.
Canberra co-captain Alan Tongue rolled over to score on the last tackle in the 74th minute after he picked up the loose ball ahead of Lui.
The try was awarded by video referee Bill Harrigan to leave the Raiders trailing 26-22.
Croker converted the try to leave the Raiders trailing 26-24 after 75 minutes.
The Raiders were awarded a controversial penalty after Dwyer was penalised for a swinging arm on second-rower Joe Picker that saw lose the ball. Croker lined up for the shot from 30 metres out to the left of the posts.
He failed to convert the penalty attempt with 3m.28secs left on the clock. The ball went dead to force a goal line drop out to give the Raiders another set before the Raiders lost the ball with second-rower Liam Fulton picking the ball up.
Farah put a downfield grubber kick at the end of the Wests Tigers set to give Canberra another set of six inside the final two minutes.
The Raiders then lost the ball to leave Wests Tigers with a scrum feed in the final minute. The Wests Tigers slowly played out the set as the clock ticked down to give them a thrilling 26-24 victory. Marshall was outstanding in attack and kicked 5 out of 5 goals.
Buford Balony says: All the way Tigers. The Dragons will choke again. Yeeehaaa!