A dramatic late surge from the Mounties saw the men in yellow and black snatch a thrilling 21-18 victory over Wyong at Morry Breen Oval. Halfback Sam Williams kicked an audacious 40-metre field goal with just 90 seconds left on the clock to edge the visitors in front for the first time in the match.
A terrific tussle between two, well-credentialed VB NSW Cup teams transpired as the Mounties fought back from 18-10 down to draw level in the 77th minute. Williams’ subsequent conversion attempt from 15 metres left of the sticks sailed wide and a draw looked the likely outcome. However, from the very next set, Williams would launch his magnificent drop kick, securing Steve Antonelli’s team their second nail-biting victory in as many weeks.
The game began with Wyong skipper Mitch Williams copping a head knock and being forced to jelly-leg his way toward the sideline for a 10-minute sit down. The Roos would open the scoring without their crafty dummy-half however, and via a somewhat bizarre try. Tyler Cornish seemed to shank a penalty kick for touch and yet the ball most fortuitously ended up in the lap of a fast trailing Matt Ikavalu who raced away to score.
Five minutes later and Wyong missed a golden chance to extend their lead when Brendon Elliott ignored an unmarked Chris Centrone after a brilliant; hot potato procession from left to right had created an overlap opportunity in the corner.
Mounties were aiming much of their attack at the Wyong right-side defence and the tactic paid a dividend in the 21st minute when Sam Williams found Mitch Barnett; the rangy back-rower steaming into a hole before managing to flick up a desperate pass as he fell, allowing Mitch Cronin a clear run to the line.
The defence of both teams was outstanding as either side took turns in repelling sustained attacking forays. A shoulder charge penalty against the visitors gave Wyong further field position and on this occasion the recently returned Mitch Williams was able to thread a grubber through for Lagi Setu to pounce. Cornish’s easy conversion pushed the Roos ahead 12-6.
On the stroke of half-time Dave Cahalane split the green and gold defensive line, culminating in former Warrior Bill Tupou diving into the caravan park corner; an action that served to reduce the deficit, leaving the mid game score line at 12-10 to the Roos.
The second half provided a continuation of the absorbing grind that had so marked the first. Wyong took a meaningful step toward victory in the 52nd minute when Brock Molan latched onto some fine lead up from Chris Centrone and Mitch Williams to charge over for a try. And yet the game was back in the balance when Mitch Barnett again tore through down the left. From the ensuing set, the ball flew through Mountie hands, ending with Bill Tupou who speared into the right corner for his second try of the contest. Wyong ahead 18-14 with 12 minutes to play.
Wyong looked to have won the night when some extraordinary razzle dazzle ended with Matt Ikuvalu crossing however the touch judge called the movement back for an alleged forward pass.
Jack Ahearn’s subsequent game levelling try in the 77th minute came on the back of a stripping penalty, followed by a forceful surge from Mitch Cronin. The Mounties fullback then charged out of dummy half to find the line from close range, setting up the dramatic final few minutes of an absorbing round two clash.
Mounties 21 (Bill Tupou 2, Mitch Cronin, Jack Ahearn tries; Sam Williams 2 goals, field goal) d. Wyong 18 (Brock Molan, Lagi Setu, Matt Ikuvalu tries; Tyler Cornish 3 goals)
[PHOTO: Andrew Stark]