It took barely one minute for Robb College to signal their intentions in their semi-final showdown with Barbarians when James Gavin split the defence open and crossed for the first try.
The early five-pointer shocked the Baa Baas into action and no points were scored for nearly 20 minutes.
The Barbarians’ reputation for physicality came to the fore as they muscled up and were next to score, first through a Hayden Clarke-penalty goal and then Keith Ellis barged through for a try next to the posts.
Robb were quick to respond when Darcy Larrit crossed out wide.
Andy Leatham scored a converted try leading into the half-time break to give the students at 21 points to 10 edge.
The first points in the second stanza went to the students through a Harry Morrow-penalty.
Robb players were penalised and sent from the field and the Barbarians capitalised with Tyson Waters storming over.
In response, the students spread the ball out wide and found space for Mick Ogilvie to cross and extend Robb’s lead to 31-15.
Johnboy Quinlin tip-toed his way down the sideline and over the white stripe for the Barbarians moments before full-time but it was not enough for last year’s grand finalists as the university side ran out 31-20 winners.
Preparation was key, according to Robb captain Nick Schnitzler.
“Before the game we talked about [how] they're a big, strong, physical side, a very good side as well,” he said.
“We knew the first 20-25 minutes, they would come out hard and rumble through the forwards but we knew if we could weather that storm, we could put a few points on them at the back end of the half and into the second half.”
The victory ensured Robb will meet university rivals St Albert’s College in the decider.
Albies triumphed 43-10 last time the teams met, in the opening semi, but Schnitzler said his side wouldn’t be focusing on the past heading into the big dance.
“We set a goal at the start of the year to make the grand final and it feels really good to be able to achieve it,” he said.
“In saying that, it's only halfway there - we have a big game next week and I think we have a really good chance after that [the Barbarians] win. Obviously it’s a big rivalry we have with them [Albies].
“It was a bit disappointing last time we played them so we just have to re-focus this week at training and put it behind us. The grand final is a different kettle of fish, anything can happen on the day.”