HIGHLIGHTS: Mounties v Warriors (Rd 25)
Mounties blasted the New Zealand Warriors off the park with a 22-point second-half blitz that saw them defeat the Warriors 36-10.
The Mounties players fought for every inch from start to finish in their pursuit of the top-of-the-table position. The 26-point win was just enough for the Mounties to snatch the Minor Premiership from the Wyong Roos, with a single point on for and against separating the sides.
The combination of Josh McCrone and Patrick Mago proved too much to handle for the Warriors as McCrone's soft hands and short balls allowed Mago to rampage through holes and score twice at pivotal moments in the game. In a match where conversions were vital, Mitch Cornish had a day to forget but his brilliant running game saw the halfback make up for his misfiring boot by scoring under the posts and converting his own try.
It took just three minutes for first points to be scored when the Warriors had a fortunate ricochet off a kick fall into the awaiting hands of Sione Fe’ao who strolled over untouched. James Bell added the extras for a 6-0 Warriors lead. But the Warriors' good fortune was short lived as they continuously squandered opportunities throughout the half.
Alternatively Mounties were making the most of their chances scoring three times in the first half. First a barraging run from Mark Nicholls saw the big man drag defenders over the line in the 10th minute and secondly some slick hands from the Mounties right edge saw Gus Aiga exploit the overlap created and score out wide.
The final try of the first half came in the 33rd minute when an expert short ball from Josh McCrone put Patrick Mago through a hole and the bustling forward took care of the rest, fending off contact from two covering Warriors to slam the ball down. Cornish was only able to convert 1 from 3 and at halftime the scores stood Mounties 14 Warriors 6.
Four minutes into the second half and the Warriors were again first to score as Raymond Talimalie sent a grubber through the stretched Mounties defense and into the path of his fullback Simon Luafalealo, who placed the ball down with barley a hand laid on him. Siliva Havili missed his conversion attempt from 20 metres out and the scores stood at 14-10.
This would prove to be as close as the Warriors would come to reclaiming the lead as the next 15 minutes saw the Mounties score four times to kill off the game before the final quarter.
Mago began the onslaught in the 47th minute when his support play was a rewarded by a McCrone short ball that sent the hulking forward crashing over the line. But it was the Warriors reaction to this try that sealed their fate; as they conceded an avoidable penalty on the very next tackle. Mounties were marched up field and an overlap down their left edge saw Stewart Mills score out wide.
The Warriors were now quickly imploding and the restart of the play the ball saw the warriors penalized for kicking the ball out on the full. Cornish extracted maximum points form the mistake with a brilliant solo effort that saw him beat multiple defenders in a weaving ten metre dash to the line. Cornish converted his own try to take the scores to 30-10 by the 56th minute.
Kyle O’Donnell was awarded the final try of the match after running off Pat Mataele who had turned infield from his wing to link up with the prop. Cornish converted to take the scores to 36-10 with a quarter to go.
In a match where every single point mattered, the Mounties showed why they came out on top after twenty-five rounds, displaying grit and determination right across the park with three forwards, two wingers a halve all chiming in to score.
Interestingly enough it is the Warriors that finished fourth on the ladder which means these two sides face each other again in Week One of the finals. New Zealand will certainly be looking for immediate vengeance on the newly crowned minor premiers.