REIGNING premier Tullibigeal-Lakes United took the first step towards defending its title by beating Waratahs 30-26 in the Group 20 qualifying final at Lake Cargelligo yesterday.
The victory means the Sharks will play West Wyalong this weekend for a spot in the grand final.
Given the tough nature of yesterday's win, Sharks captain-coach Brent Pike said his team would take plenty of confidence into the match against the undefeated Mallee Men.
"You always go in feeling good after getting a good win like that," Pike said.
"But Wyalong at Wyalong, they're the minor premiers and have been the benchmark all year.
"It will be a very physical and fast game, but the boys are looking forward to it."
Before his players run on against the Mallee Men, Pike will ask them to reproduce the start they had yesterday.
Playing in front of their home fans, the Sharks stormed to an 18-4 lead in the first half before the Tigers fought back to reduce the margin to four ahead of the break.
The visitors levelled the game after the restart as the teams began trading tries until the siren.
After crossing four times the previous week, Sharks fullback Jaden Kelly continued his rich vein of form to bag a hat-trick.
Pike, however, also sang the praises of his forward pack.
"They really stood up for us when it counted," he said.
"They (the Tigers) have got big forwards, so it was pretty tough out there."
When his side was playing well, Pike said the Sharks were sticking to a simple formula.
"We were just holding the ball and completing our sets, doing all the little things right," he said.
"But then we started to give away a lot of penalties on the fourth and fifth tackles and then allowed Waratahs to get a bit of a roll on.
"If we hadn't have done that, the result would have probably been a bit different."
While they would have preferred to have won yesterday, the Tigers are still alive in the premiership race and will play Darlington Point-Coleambally in the second week of the finals.