The Illawarra Cutters reversed their narrow loss two weeks ago to the Roos as they scored a gripping 22-14 win over Wyong at a spongy Morry Breen Oval.
The game hung in the balance until the final minute as man-of-the-match Shannon Crook shrugged off a defender to dart over besides the upright, after Wyong had ground their way to a two-point lead midway through the final period. The Cutters would not be denied the victory and scored the last two tries of the afternoon to secure their second away win in as many weeks.
The opening 25 minutes of the game provided an intriguing stalemate as neither side was willing to concede an inch. Nathan Green and Yileen Gordon took a momentary disliking to each other in the 18th minute and referee Damian Briscoe sin-binned both men away for ten minutes. Despite the enthusiasm on display, neither side was able to notch points until it fell to the competition’s leading try scorer, Kiti Glymin, to place the ball over the stripe in the 27th minute. Back-to-back attacking sets had seen Illawarra mount a fulsome raid and when halfback Crook noticed the sole defender out wide, he chip-kicked to his unmarked winger and the Cutters soon led by six.
Wyong levelled things up when their nuggetty five eight, Brock Molan dummied, then bullied his way over from the back of the ruck. Nathan Stapleton’s conversion had the sides level at the break.
The Cutters lost right-centre Junior Vaivai to a knee injury and were further hampered when Nathan Green was given a second stint in the sin bin after holding down an attacking Roos ruck. Two plays later, powerful back rower Abraham Papalii cannon balled across the stripe, landing directly under the northern crossbar after accepting a flat Mitch Williams pass from dummy half. The simple conversion had the home team leading 12-6.
Wyong’s advantage was short lived as Kiti Glymin grabbed his second try in the 46th minute after a last tackle spread right had fully stretched the Roos defence. Despite suspicions of a forward pass, referee Briscoe pointed to the spot and with another superb Shannon Crook conversion; the scoreboard read 12-all.
As the game approached the hour mark, Mitch Williams darted from dummy half before putting Chris Centrone away up centre field. The Wyong fullback was caught and held down too long by desperate Cutters defenders, drawing a penalty in front and a subsequent 14-12 lead for the Roos.
Three minutes later, Wyong spilled an Illawarra bomb and the repeat set resulted in Crook finding Sitiveni Moceidreke with a long ball as the powerful winger bustled into the Leagues Club corner for a pivotal play. The Cutters led by two before desperately clinging on for the win.
Wyong threw everything at the Illawarra line during a frenetic final quarter hour but handling errors and lack of composure ultimately undid the Roos. The Cutters defence held solidly until the siren and when Crooks raced over in the 79th minute, Scott Logan’s men celebrated the victory.
Illawarra 22 (Kiti Glymin 2, Sitiveni Moceidreke, Shannon Crook tries; Shannon Crook 3 goals) d. Wyong 14 (Brock Molan, Abraham Papalii tries; Nathan Stapleton 3 goals)