The Hills District Bulls moved back into the Ron Massey Cup top eight when they pipped the St Marys Saints 24-20 in a controversial Ron Massey Cup main match of Round 10 at Crestwood Reserve, Baulkham Hills last Sunday.
In a pulsating match that ebbed and flowed all day, the Bulls – missing halves Jason Wehbe and James Boustani to the Lebanon v Cook Islands Test Match played at Belmore – held their nerve in the closing stages to hang on and win.
The Saints settled down first when a superb cut-out pass from half Jake Butfield hit Tom Eisenhuth on the chest for the centre to stroll over and open the scoring in the seventh minute for a 6-0 lead with Butfield’s conversion.
Bulls skipper Tim Robinson replied from a short pass from stand in half Ben Falcone to crash over under the posts and level scores seven minutes later with Liam Walker’s conversion.
Class Saints fullback and young Penrith Panthers prospect Brent Naden showed his class in the 23rd minute when he rounded up opposite number Gerard McCallum’s 60-metre burst before he beat McCallum for pace off a Butfield pass to score and give the visitors a 10-6 lead.
Giant Saints winger Luke Nadurutalo out-leaped Walker from a bomb three minutes from half-time to give the Saints a 14-6 lead going to the break – as a prelude to the controversial incident of the match.
After the try was scored, Eisenhuth lodged an on-field complaint with referee Phil Sung against Bulls stand in five-eighth Devon Makoare-Boyce for an alleged eye gouging in a tackle leading up to Nadurutalo’s try.
Sung had no choice but to place Makoare-Boyce on report to be dealt with during the following week by the NSWRL Judiciary.
In a thrilling second half, Bulls stand in hooker Adam Spicer scored his first try nine minutes after the restart to set up the second stanza nicely at 14-12 with Walker’s conversion.
Then in the 61st minute, two superb passes by ageless interchange Bulls forward Hutch Maiava and fellow prop Robinson sent McCallum away under the posts to give the Bulls the 18-14 lead with Walker’s conversion.
Naden then scored his second try with 12 minutes left when he leapt high from a Butfield bomb above McCallum to plant the ball down next to the posts to regain the lead for the Saints at 20-18 with Butfield’s conversion.
As time ticked down, the Bulls had one last chance on the back of field position gained from a couple of suspect passes. Spicer burrowed over from close range through three defenders out wide with three minutes left to regain the lead at 24-20 with Walker’s successful conversion.
In the last 90 seconds, the Saints got possession back and looked to have pulled a result out of nowhere when second- rower Joe Vaegaau looked to have scored – only for the last pass to be ruled forward.
The Bulls held on from the scrum to close out their win to move back into the top eight.
In the other match of the split round last Sunday, the Concord-Burwood Wolves continued to serve notice that they are a genuine Ron Massey Cup threat as they trounced 2015 Grand Finalists Asquith 36-14 at Goddard Park, Concord.
With the bigger Wolves pack making the most of the Magpies’ diabolical completion rate of just four from 11 sets in the first half, Concord-Burwood’s brilliant backline set up a match winning 26-nil lead at the half-time break.
Joe Uluibau, Cameron Eyles, former North Sydney Bear Bernard Gregorius, new centre Matui Fukofuka and class five-eighth Marc Russell all scored first half tries as the Wolves ran riot over the hapless Mapgies in the first 40 minutes.
Asquith did mount a comeback of sorts in the second half despite missing Abbas Miski and Mark Daoud to the Lebanon v Cook Islands Test, and winger Alex Nicholls-O’Neill to a touch football carnival in Queensland last Sunday.
When skipper Joel Latham, halfback Aaron Groom and bustling centre Jeco Makatoa got on the score sheet with tries in quick succession in the second half, the Magpies had hopes of a miracle comeback when Makatoa converted his own try.
However the Wolves steadied and put the game beyond doubt when interchange fullback Sami Latu scored to extend the Concord-Burwood lead to 30-14.
Giant Wolves backrower Kem Seru put the icing on the cake when he barged over to score in the closing stages to complete the scoring at 36-14 with halfback Aaron Booth’s fourth conversion from seven attempts.
This weekend sees the rest of the split round completed with four matches to be played – three on Saturday and one game on Sunday.
Western Suburbs and Wentworthville square off at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday in a mouth-watering all-Magpies “battle of the birds” as the pick of the action – playing as the main curtain-raiser to the Wests Tigers v Wyong Intrust Super Premiership NSW match later in the day.
Triple H FM returns to the Intrust Super Premiership this weekend with coverage of the derby between the North Sydney Bears and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles on Sunday from North Sydney Oval at 3pm.
All the Sunday action can be heard on 100.1 FM, via live streaming at www.triplehfm.com.au, or on the TuneIn app.