The Peninsula Seagulls announced themselves as genuine Sydney Shield contenders with an emphatic 44-24 win over defending premiers the Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Park last Sunday.
Shrugging off disruptions to their coaching staff, which saw veteran St George and Penrith player Gary Pethybridge take over in the absence of regular coaches Scott Pethybridge and Craig Gower, the Seagulls blitzed the disappointing Magpies with a devastating second half.
The match was tight in the first 40 minutes; it was a 12-all scoreline at the break, with converted tries to Magpies wingers Timoci Vatubuli and Ryan Burroughs cancelled out by Nick Grant and Jon Grimes’ four-pointers for the Seagulls.
The visitors then clicked with five converted tries in 28 minutes to put the contest beyond doubt in the second half.
On the back of a superb kicking game and Man-Of-The-Match performance from halfback Luke Martin, the Seagulls put the fumbling Magpies to the sword with tries to Martin, hooker Jake Gearin, fullback Jake Pickering and 18-year-old five-eighth Jack Johns, before Grant’s second try saw the Seagulls home and dry at 42-12 up with just over 10 minutes left.
The Magpies got two late consolation tries from KJ Mackenzie and Jean-Luc Knox, before a penalty goal right on full-time from Martin finished the scoring for the Seagulls. Martin landed a perfect eight goals from eight attempts to give him a personal tally of 20 points and send the Magpies crashing to their second-straight loss.
A five-try performance from winger Ashley Johnson helped the Hills District Bulls stage a massive form reversal to beat Guildford Owls 36-22 at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.
Coming off the back of a 76-8 hiding from Mounties the previous week, the home side started well with Johnson’s first try in just the third minute for a 4-nil Bulls lead.
Guildford fullback Jarred Petero then finished off a blind side movement to give the Owls a 6-4 lead after 20 minutes with Josh Maree’s conversion and the match looked evenly poised.
The Bulls then clicked against token Owls defence that bordered on farcical for the rest of the half – scoring an incredible four tries in 10 minutes!
Johnson completed his hat-trick with two tries in three minutes, then hooker Jaz Flavell strolled over to score in the 28th minute, before Sione Tonga completed the first half rout with a converted try to give the Bulls a 24-6 lead at the break.
When Johnson helped himself to his fourth try three minutes into the second half from another blind side raid, the floodgates looked to be wide open at 28-6.
James Gammidge got a reply for Guildford when they were finally able to hang on to the ball for 28-10, before Johnson’s incredible fifth try against more slack defence saw the Bulls extend their lead to 34-10 with Tonga’s conversion.
Johnson is now the leading Sydney Shield try scorer with 10 tries in five games to start the season.
Guildford then came back against a Bulls side that appeared to have clocked off. Frank Salu crashed over from a turnover, before Asquith Magpies recruit Shae Jarvis finished off a passing movement to breathe life back into the game at 34-22 with 17 minutes left.
The Owls then could not convert their remaining possession and the Bulls finally put the game to bed – after half Brad Horder missed a field goal attempt – with a Tonga penalty goal right on full time to finish the 36-22 win.
Last Sunday’s other game saw East Campbelltown Eagles move to the top of the table with a comfortable 40-20 win over a game Auburn Warriors at Waminda Oval.
It looked to be one-way traffic early when 2015 Player Of The Year Ben Baker opened the scoring in the third minute for a 4-nil lead. Fred Tavaga and Fousi Toutai scored, extending the lead to 14-nil after 20 minutes.
The Warriors hit back with tries to Tom Harvey and Fileti Fatai to bring the scores back to 14-10.
The Eagles then moved up a gear. Tevaga got his second try just before the break for a 20-10 half-time Eagles lead.
Then the Eagles attack clicked in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Toutai bagged his second, before winger Craig Moustakas, ex-Wests Tigers NYC half Wayde Dunley and hooker Jarryd Eggleton put the game beyond doubt with tries to give the home side a match winning 40-10 lead.
The Warriors kept trying and were rewarded with two late tries in the closing stages – including Harvey’s second major – make the score a respectable one at the end.
This weekend sees the last four games of the split round being played across Saturday and Sunday.