By Andrew Spark at Morry Breen Oval
The Wyong Roos defeated their northern rivals, Newcastle, for the first time in VB NSW Cup history following a superb defensive effort. Rip Taylor’s men kept the Knights scoreless for the final 72 minutes of the contest, tackling themselves to a standstill in capturing a tenacious 18-6 victory on their home patch of Morry Breen Oval.
Newcastle began this keenly-anticipated contest with force and was rewarded early on when their prop forward Paterika Vaivai charged across the Wyong stripe after just eight minutes. Danny Kerr slotted the extras and the visitors had jumped to a 6-0 lead.
The battle in the forwards was fierce and raged with serious intent as both sides signalled a keen desire to leave the arena with two competition points and local bragging rights. The bone-on-bone stalemate of the opening quarter was suddenly tipped in Wyong’s favour when their barnstorming Kiwi back rower, Abraham Papalii, was introduced into the skirmish at the 20-minute mark. Careering through the Newcastle defensive line, Papalii barrelled up-field from his own quarter line at the 24th minute mark for the Roos to go on the attack. Big “Nos” Stromquist continued the good work of his team mate but was held up over the try line. However, Jack Siejka was able to muscle his way over on the right edge on the following play and the scoreboard margin was instantly reduced to two.
The green and golds were suddenly in the ascendancy and a crisply delivered Mitch Williams pass placed Siejka on another promising gallop shortly thereafter. A desperate Newcastle over did their ruck defence and from the subsequent Roos penalty, a shift to the left allowed Nathan Stapleton to wrestle his way into the Leagues Club corner. The seasoned campaigner then coolly converted his own try from out wide and Wyong carried all the momentum and a 10-6 lead into the break.
The state of the game only got better for Wyong, when three minutes into the second half their classy fullback Nene MacDonald stepped his way up centre field after scurrying back to retrieve a wayward pass. From the following play, the ball was urgently sent through the hands and with an obvious overlap to contend with, Ourimbah junior Jake Mamo, did his best to knock down the final pass for the Knights. The ball was knocked off its original trajectory but a kind bounce enabled it to end up in the arms of Matt Ikuvalu who speared gleefully into the corner to further extend Wyong’s lead. Stapleton nailed the conversion from touch again and the Kanwal scoreboard read 16-6.
Newcastle threw everything at Wyong during the final half hour in an attempt to cut the deficit but resolute defence and little luck thwarted their every attempt.
A nasty leg injury to popular Knight’s benchman, James Elias, in the 69th minute soured the afternoon as he exited via a stretcher and the contest was pushed into further disparity when four minutes from full-time, Stapleton converted the penalty from in front of the posts after Mitch Williams had been clipped high in an accidental moment.
Wyong’s dogged defence on their own line during the final 60 seconds of the game was a telling sign; the contest had already been decided but the Roos continued to deny their opponents even the hint of consolation.
The return bout between these two spirited teams, which is set down for Newcastle during mid July, should be inked in as a must-see game for all NSW Cup fans.
WYONG ROOS 18 (Jack Siejka, Nathan Stapleton, Matt Ikuvalu tries; Nathan Stapleton 3 goals) bt NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 6 (Paterika Vaivai try; Danny Kerr goal)