By Nathan Beuman at WIN Stadium
The Wyong Roos have produced one of the biggest second half fight backs in recent VB NSW Cup history to defeat the Illawarra Cutters 40-26 at WIN Stadium.
Down 26-0 after 50 minutes, the Roos fought their way back into the game off the back of poor discipline from the home side, scoring seven unanswered tries in the final half hour to stun the crowd and keep themselves in the hunt for a playoff berth.
With the late addition of experienced first grader Bronson Harrison to the Cutters line up, the home side dominated the battle up front in the early stages of the match, before finally capitalising in the 15th minute when Tyron Cranston scored off the boot of Drew Hutchinson.
Five-eighth Sam Duggan continued his stellar year from the tee, converting from wide out to give Illawarra a 6-0 lead.
A converted try to Duggan shortly after extended the Cutters lead out to 12-0 with just over a quarter of an hour remaining in the opening stanza.
Just when it looked as though Wyong were going to go into the sheds down by just two converted tries, the Roos gave away a penalty right in front with only seconds remaining, gifting the Cutters an easy two points.
The home side continued to assert their dominance after the break, with tries to Chris Lewis and Geoff Daniela well and truly putting Illawarra in the driver’s seat with half an hour remaining.
The Roos were able to capitalise on a full set 10 metres out from their own line soon after, with Mark O’Meley getting a pass away to Jono Ford, who crashed over under the posts, reducing the margin to 26-6 following Kheirallah’s conversion.
Wyong were in again moments later when Mitch Williams got a short pass away to Shaune Corrigan, with the left side centre going over to bring the difference back to only 14 points following Kheirallah’s conversion.
Poor discipline by the Cutters allowed the Roos to run in five tries in the final 17 minutes to cement one of the biggest comebacks in recent memory.
Zane Tetevano started the onslaught for the visitors, with the former Newcastle Knight slamming the ball down next to the uprights to peg it back to only eight points with 15 minutes remaining after Kheirallah’s nailed the kick at goal.
The Roos really started to assume control of the game from there, making breaks at will, with tries to Jay Florimo, Damon Goolagong and Mitch Williams in the space of eight minutes kicking Wyong out to a 34-26 lead with five minutes remaining.
To add insult to injury, the Roos ran in yet another try against a dejected Cutters outfit just before full time, with Mitch Williams making a clean break up the middle, before linking up with fullback Mark Kheirallah, who converted his own try to put the score at 40-26.
Wyong now control their own top eight destiny and have a date with the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown next Saturday afternoon, while the Cutters will have to stew over the loss for the next fortnight, as they have the bye in the run-in to the finals.
Wyong Roos 40 (M Kheirallah, D Goolagong, S Corrigan, J Florimo, J Ford, M Williams, Z Tetevano tries; M Kheirallah 6 goals) def. Illawarra Cutters 26 (G Daniela, S Duggan, C Lewis, T Cranston tries; S Duggan 5 goals) at WIN Stadium.