Team photo with the ball boys and girls. Warriors v  North Sydney. VB NSW Cup Rugby League. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. New Zealand. Sunday 31 August 2014. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.Photosport.co.nz

NSW CUP FINALS | Cutters next

After eliminating the higher-ranked Mounties in their opening finals clash, the Vodafone Warriors have the chance to move into the New South Wales Cup’s last four when they face Illawarra at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney on Sunday (6.10pm local time; 8.10pm NZT).

The eighth-placed Rohan Smith-coached Vodafone Warriors avenged two convincing regular season losses to dismiss the fifth-placed Mounties 36-28 at Leichhardt Oval yesterday.

In their opening finals encounter yesterday, Illawarra, which finished the regular season in fourth spot, was crushed 42-6 by minor premier Penrith.

The Vodafone Warriors were unbeaten in their two clashes against the Illawarra Cutters earlier in the season, drawing 12-12 at Eden Park in March and prevailing 35-28 at WIN Jubilee in April.

This is the first year the Auckland-based NSW Cup side has been under the Vodafone Warriors’ sole control. Last year the joint-venture Auckland Vulcans finished sixth in the regular season but were eliminated 34-24 by Wests Tigers in week one of the finals.

The New South Wales Cup finals started a week earlier than the NRL and NYC play-offs which kick off this week.

The NSW Cup grand final will be played at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, September 28 with the premiers going on to meet the Queensland Cup’s champion side on NRL grand final day at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 5.

In the other week one finals last weekend, Newcastle (2) beat Wentworthville (3) 24-12 and Wests Tigers (6) was eliminated after losing 8-26 to Wyong (7).

Wentworthville meets Wyong in this Sunday’s other final at Leichhardt Oval (4.00pm kick-off) while Penrith and Newcastle advance straight to week three.