The stage is set with the top eight sides decided to take part in this year’s electrifying VB NSW Cup finals series.
The Manly Sea Eagles secured their finals place at the expense of the Illawarra Cutters, who were eliminated from finals contention following their disappointing 32-8 loss against the Canterbury Bulldogs. Manly smashed Wentworthville Magpies 58-16 to sit in seventh place with Tom Symonds scoring two tries in an inspirational performance for his side.
The Bulldogs were too good for the Cutters who were desperate for the two points to keep their top-eight chances alive. The Cutters trailed 10-8 in the second half before the Bulldogs ran away with the contest due in part to Lindon McGrady’s try double.
In the most anticipated match of the round, the eighth-placed North Sydney Bears earned plenty of encouragement in their narrow 18-16 loss to the Wyong Roos. The Bears faced an early 18-0 deficit against the competition heavyweights but were courageous in fighting back and will take plenty out of the match moving towards the finals.
With the win, the Roos remain locked for first place with Mounties and Penrith Panthers. Mounties emphatically ended Wests Tigers’ finals hopes with a clinical 54-18 mauling and sounded a stern warning to their finals opponents. Mounties playmakers Mitch Cornish, Josh McCrone and Glenn Butriss were outstanding and are set for a major finals performance.
The Panthers were too strong for the Warriors winning 22-10 at Mt Smart Stadium. With the halftime scores locked at 10-all, Penrith hit their stride for a well-constructed victory – essential characteristics of premiership-winning sides.
The sixth-placed Newcastle Knights bounced back into form with an impressive 40-26 triumph to close the lid on the Newtown Jets’ season. It was a cruel result for the Jets who exploded out of the gates for a 22-4 lead midway through the second half before the Knights scored 36 unanswered points. Jaelen Feeney boosted his first-grade opportunity with a sensational man-of-the-match performance, scoring two tries and steering his side to a vital win.
Round 25 is sure to feature several more twists and turns to close out the regular season.
In two tantalising finals-preview matches, it’s sixth vs seventh with the Knights against Manly, while the league-leading Mounties aim to clinch the minor premiership against the fourth-placed Warriors.