By Adam Bagnall at Aubrey Keech Reserve
Mounties defeated the Illawarra Cutters 22-20 at Aubrey Keech Reserve, Hinchinbrook on Saturday in a high-quality contest where the final result was not decided until the dying stages.
Both sides fielded strong line-ups with Mounties naming the likes of Sam Williams, Bill Tupou and Joel Edwards, while a star-studded Cutters backline included Peter Mata’utia, Charly Runciman and Kris Keating.
In warm conditions on a dry field, defence dominated the opening exchanges as both sides sought to gain the ascendency around the ruck. The home side looked good late in the match, holding onto a 22-16 lead before a long-range try to Cutters winger Charly Runciman brought his side within a try and set up a grandstand finish.
The visitors took the lead in the 30th minute when highly-rated centre Euan Aitken burst onto a short ball close to the line and crossed. Cutters fullback Peter Mata’utia missed the conversion attempt and his side led 4-0.
Mounties opened their account in the 35th minute with a simple try under the posts to Sam Duggan, converted by halfback Sam Williams to give his side a 6-4 lead.
In the 43rd minute desperate defence by Mounties denied Cutters winger Tyron Cranston and they backed this up with a try of their own just four minutes later through Kurt Baptise. Williams made no mistake and the Mounties led 10-6.
The Cutters suffered a double blow in the second half when they lost Nathan Green and Peter Mata’utia to injury, but that failed to deter them and a slice of luck saw them regain the lead; a lucky ricochet saw the ball fly of the boot of a Cutters player and high in the air in the in-goal area. Aitken was the lucky recipient and he touched down for his second try. Mata’utia converted and the Cutters trailed 12-10.
Two tries in the space of seven minutes put the Mounties in prime position to take the match, as a small but vocal crowd got behind their side in the latter stages of an absorbing contest.
A rampaging try to Shannon Boyd regained the lead for his team before former Cutter Gus Aiga finished of a sweeping backline play. A brilliant sideline conversion by Williams made it 22-6 with just 10 minutes left.
The Cutters needed something special and young winger Charly Runciman delivered, racing 50 metres to score a great try and give his side hope. With Mata’utia off the field it was up to halfback Drew Hutchinson to take the conversion attempt, but his effort fell short and the Mounties recorded a narrow victory.
There were no standouts from either side but a number of players had excellent games that would please their respective coaches.
Sam Williams looked composed in attack for Mounties while Shannon Boyd had several strong carries and scored a vital try in the second half to give his side the lead. For the Cutters, prop Jokotama Dokonivalu proved a constant threat through the middle.
This week the Cutters travel to Brookvale Oval to take on the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, with both sides looking for their first win of 2015, while the Mounties travel up to Morry Breen Oval to tackle the Wyong Roos who had a big win over the Sea Eagles.
Mounties 22 (Duggan, Baptiste, Boyd, Aiga tries; Williams 3 goals) defeated Illawarra Cutters 20 (Aitken 2, Runciman, Cranston tries; Mata’utia 3 goal) at Aubrey Keech