By Nathan Beuman at Ron Costello Oval
The Illawarra Cutters have retained second position on the VB NSW Cup table, with an emphatic 42-14 win over Mounties at Ron Costello Oval in Shellharbour.
The home side asserted themselves from the get-go, running in four tries in the opening quarter of the match to hand Mounties their first loss in a month.
The Mulga got off to the worst start possible, throwing a forward pass from the opening kickoff, before Peter Mata’utia got a ball away to Chris Lewis on the wing, giving the Cutters a 4-0 lead after just three minutes.
Illawarra didn’t take long to add to their lead, taking advantage of poor discipline by the visitors, spinning it wide to Nathan Smith, with the winger going over on almost the same blade of grass.
This time Stanley’s conversion was spot on, nailing the kick from wide out to give Illawarra a 10-0 lead with barely seven minutes gone.
Tries to Geoff Daniela and Junior Tia Kilifi in the space of six minutes saw the Cutters jump out to a 20 point lead with still an hour remaining in the game.
The visitors finally got on the board in the 27th minute, when halfback Ryan Carr decided to take the line on himself, sneaking over against his former club, reducing the margin to 16 points after Reece Goldsmith failed to add the extras.
A break from Mosese Pangai led to more points for the Mulga, with the former North Queensland Cowboy getting a pass away to a trailing Wayne Dargan, pegging the margin back to two converted tries after Carr was unable to locate the uprights, sending Illawarra into the sheds up 20-8.
Despite losing Chris Lewis in the first minute after the break, the Cutters continued their assault on a tiring Mounties forward pack, when Josh Ailaomai got his right arm free to pop a pass up to Shane Pumipi, who went over under the posts, giving Illawarra a 26-8 lead with still half an hour remaining.
An individual piece of brilliance by Drew Hutchinson moments later had the Cutters down the business end of the park, with Duggan setting up an overlap on the left flank, allowing Nathan Smith to go over for his second try of the afternoon.
Mounties got one back 15 minutes before full time, when Mosese Pangai pounced on a grubber kick in the in-goal, bringing the deficit back to 32-14 following Joey Bond’s successful conversion.
Tries to Nathan Smith and Geoff Daniela in the final ten minutes of play rounded out a dominant outing for Illawarra, as they continue to gain confidence in the run into the finals.
The Cutters have another big test next Saturday afternoon, when they head to Leichardt Oval to take on the third place Wests Tigers at 3:15pm, in a match which will go a long way to deciding who finishes second.
Meanwhile, Mounties will play only their second game of the year in Canberra this coming Saturday, when they lock horns with the struggling North Sydney Bears at GIO Stadium from 12:40pm.
Illawarra Cutters 42 (N Smith 3, G Daniela 2, C Lewis, J Tia Kilifi, S Pumipi tries; S Duggan 4, K Stanley goals) def. Mounties 14 (W Dargan, M Pangai, R Carr tries; J Bond goal) at Ron Costello Oval, Shellharbour.