The Guildford Owls completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of the Sydney Shield with an inspired 32-28 win over the Hills District Bulls at McCredie Park last Sunday.
On a weekend where the top six teams on the competition table all won, it was the Guildford win that was the most remarkable performance of the weekend.
The first half hour was dominated by the Bulls as the visitors raced in five unanswered tries to lead 28-nil and seemingly in total control.
Centre Josh Shepherd opened the scoring in the third minute and had a double inside 22 minutes. Hooker Jaz Flavell burrowed over from dummy half to score between Shepherd’s tries.
Winger Ben Falcone and 39 year old former Cronulla and Canterbury NRL prop Hutch Maiava completed the early blitz with tries and Devon Makoare-Boyce landed four goals from five attempts to give the visitors their commanding lead.
The Guildford comeback started in the last 10 minutes of the first half with two tries of their own – from winger Amanaki Manu and centre Tui Oloapu – with Anthony Layoun converting Oloapu’s try to cut the Bulls lead back to 28-10 at half time.
The Owls then started the second half with real momentum. Interchange player Faimanifo Seve finished off an attacking raid to score three minutes into the second half. He then converted himself for 28-16.
When centre Michael Morgan finished off another sweeping movement to score four minutes later, Layoun’s conversion ensured it was game on at 28-22.
Layoun then scored a brilliant try 17 minutes into the second half to bring the scores back to 28-26 and set the stage for a grandstand finish.
The next 15 minutes ebbed and flowed as the Bulls steadied trying to cling to the lead.
However, with seven minutes left Josh Camroux scrambled over in the corner to put the Owls in front for the first time.
Layoun missed the conversion from wide out, but made no mistake with a penalty goal with 90 seconds left on the clock to complete Guildford’s miracle win and make it hard for the Bulls to now make the end of season playoffs.
Competition leaders Mounties had to work as hard as they have all season to post their 16th straight win when they overcame a gallant Windsor Wolves 38-20 at Aubrey Keech Reserve last Saturday.
After a very tight first 15 minutes, it seemed ‘business as usual’ for Mounties with winger Maiko Sivo posting his 30th try for the year to get the Mulga going. Lock Sage Wilder got Mounties’ second try in the 23rd minute to give the home side a 10-nil lead with Pat Dumont’s conversion.
The Wolves then showed their newfound spirit to take it right up to the competition favourites. Interchange player Jacob Sionepeni and quality centre Mick Compton struck back with tries to level scores at 10-all at half time after half Ben Hudd converted Sinoepeni’s try.
Windsor then came out fired up by coach Chris Boyd in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
After Mounties centre Josh Toole scored to regain the lead for the Mulga, the Wolves lifted with a try to Interchange Player Corey Carl which levelled scores at 16-all with Hudd’s conversion.
When hooker Luke Atchison finished off another Wolves attack four minutes later to score, Windsor incredibly led 20-16 with just over 20 minutes to play.
It was the first time Mounties had trailed in a Sydney Shield game in over four months – and the upset of the season was right on.
The Mulga then stepped up a couple of gears to show why they are competition favourites.
Mounties hooker Josh Martin countered Atchison’s try to regain the lead for the Mulga, before Sivo completed a double to give him 31 tries for the season.
Half Brad Speechley and centre Allen Mulia Malau then scored tries in successive sets in the space of two minutes to then allow breathing space at 38-20 after Dumont converted tries.
Windsor tried gamely in the closing stages but to no avail – but walked away with heads held high as the only side to test Mounties in recent weeks.
East Campbelltown maintained their position in the Top Four with a comfortable 35-14 win over the Auburn Warriors at the Belmore Sports Ground last Saturday.
Matt Utai did not play for Auburn after his four try heroics of the previous Wednesday night, but flying winger Ben Dakuwaqa dropped back from the Warriors’ Ron Massey Cup side to open the scoring with his blistering pace in the corner in the fifth minute. It was the only time the Warriors led all day.
Mason Talolua replied with a good try next to the posts from a turnover three minuted later for 6-4 with Sean Connor’s conversion.
Eagles backrower Sama Sauvao got his first try mid way through the half to extend the lead with Connor’s conversion for 12-4, and giant bench forward Tyrone Taylor-Sweeney crashed over from close range for 18-4 five minutes later with another Connor conversion.
Connor calmly potted a field goal as the half time siren sounded to give the Eagles a 19-4 lead at the break.
Sauvao completed his double four minutes into the second half to blot out any Warriors comeback at 25-4 with Connor’s fourth conversion.
2015 Shield Player of the Year Ben Baker then got his customary try midway through the half for 29-4, before former Wests Tigers NYC half Wayde Dunley scored under the posts with 15 minutes left to put the Eagles out of sight at 35-4 with Connor’s fifth conversion from six attempts.
The Warriors got a couple of converted consolation tries in the last 10 minutes through centre Rikihana Clemens and fullback Jack Gibbons. Peni Minisale converted Gibbon’s try to make the final score more respectable for the Warriors.
Cabramatta kept their finals hopes alive with an unconvincing 40-6 win over an undermanned Western Suburbs Magpies at New Era Stadium last Saturday.
The Two Blues – played a side boosted by five players who are regulars in their Ron Massey Cup team that had a bye last weekend – took a long time to gain the upper hand against a Wests side that had quality players such as Jai Doolan called up to the Wests Tigers NYC squad last weekend.
After a tight start where both sides had chances, Cabra hooker Brody Hawkins opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with the first try which Ernes Alo converted.
Cabra doubled their lead in the shadows of half time when Taione Ravumaidama scored for Alo to convert and give the Two Blues a grinding 12-nil lead at the break.
Cabra’s experience and class advantage eventually told in the second half after Hawkins scored his second try two minutes into the second stanza to extend the lead to 18-nil with another Alo conversion.
Winger Jamie Harrison eventually made the most of his opportunites with a hat trick of tries in the space of 15 minutes in the second half to blow the lead out to 34-nil against a Magpies side that never shirked the task. Opposite winger Brent Castle got Cabra’s other unconverted second half try in the 60th minute.
Centre Phil Brombal got Wests’ reward for effort when he scored the Magpies’ only try three minutes from time to stop a completed shut out after Noa Tuitavuki’s conversion.
The Two Blues had the last word when interchange prop George Vujanovic scored in the final minute for fellow prop Tim Jones to land his first conversion for the season and close the scoring at 40-6.
The Peninsula Seagulls brought back memories of their spectacular 2014 form with an outstanding 52-16 thumping of defending Sydney Shield Premiers Wentworthville at Lake Park last Saturday evening.
It was the Seagulls’ seventh win on the trot and easily their best attacking performance of the season as they put the struggling Magpies to the sword.
Again it was fullback Jake Pickering in tremendous form - scoring two brilliant tries in the first 15 minutes to set the Seagulls on their way with a 12-nil lead after half Luke Martin converted both tries.
With 18 year old five eighth Jack Johns pulling the strings in his most complete performance in the halves this season to date, the Seagulls blitzed the Magpies with superb attack - Interchange back Izaiah Phillips finishing off another sustained attack in the 23rd minute for 18-nil, before centre Knox Time got the Seagulls’ fourth try for a 24-nil lead after just 29 minutes.
Experienced class centre KJ Mackenzie got a try back for 'Wenty' 4 minutes from half time for 24-6, before a brilliant team try to Barry 'Panda' McGrady on the half time bell gave the Seagulls a commanding 28-6 lead at the break.
Any hope of a Wenty comeback was dashed by Phillips' second try in the Seagulls’ first set of the second half that blew the lead out to 34-6 with Martin again converting.
The Seagulls then put the match beyond doubt within 10 minutes - replacement centre Jerrod See scoring his first try five minutes into the 2nd half before Pickering brought up his hat trick of tries with a superb effort 10 minutes into the second half to have the Seagulls up by an incredible 46-6. Martin had converted all three tries to blow the lead out.
Pickering now has 25 tries in just 16 games for the season. Only Mounties flyer Maiko Sivo (31) has scored more majors this year.
Wentworthville did restore some pride in the last 20 minutes - this allowed Mackenzie to complete his double after Wenty hooker Jenan Parrish burrowed over from dummy half to get Wenty some respectability on the scoreboard.
See put the icing on the cake with six minutes left when he went over for his second try to bring up the Seagulls' 50 - and was duly converted by Martin (who finished with eight goals from nine attempts for the evening) to close out the scoring for the match.
It was the defending Premiers’ fifth loss in their last six Sydney Shield outings.
The Belrose Eagles kept their Top Four hopes alive with a grinding 26-10 win over a game Blacktown Workers outfit at Laybutt Sports Fields, last Saturday.
However the win came at a terrible price for the Eagles.
Belrose Captain/Coach James Mortimer tore his right calf muscle again – in a similar way he did four weeks ago.
Belrose came out on fire with two tries in the first eight minutes - second rower Andrew Hart opened the scoring in the third minute and winger Charles Butrose finished off a movement in the corner in the 8th minute for 8-nil.
Blacktown replied with a try to Will Butler which was converted by Cameron Davis in the 17th minute for 8-6 before perhaps the key moment of the match – and maybe Belrose’s season – came in the 38th minute.
Mortimer took an intercept on his own 30 metre line and took off for the prize and a vital possible intercept try.
His right calf lasted only 25 metres at top speed before it went on the half back for the second time in four weeks.
Mortimer was immediately replaced for the rest of the match - and must now be in serious doubt for the rest of the regular season.
After play resumed from Mortimer's injury an almost inspired Belrose lifted to send play out to Blake NIchols to score in the corner with the last tackle of the first half. Nichols converted his own try after the half time bell for Belrose to lead 14-6 at the break.
Belrose extended the lead two minutes into the second half when second rower Beau Abrahams scored his second try in successive weeks for Nichols to convert and Belrose to have a comfortable buffer at 20-6.
The second half became a real grind as both teams coughed up a lot of football. Blacktown got back into the game with an unconverted try to centre Harlan Collins in the 54th minute for 20-10 to give the home side a shout of a comeback, but that was as close as the Workers got.
Belrose winger Alex Zarounas scored the match sealer with seven minutes left for Nichols to convert and Belrose to run down the clock in the closing stages to complete their expensive 26-10 win.
Finally, St Marys virtually secured their place in the Top Four with a 46-6 win over bottom placed Asquith at Storey Park last Sunday.
A remarkable five try performance from winger Peter Scanlan was the highlight performance in a win where the final score didn’t show the effort the wooden spooners elect put in during the match.
After Scanlan opened the scoring with his first try in the fourth minute, it appeared that the Saints were going to have a fairly routine afternoon.
However, Asquith struck back in the 19th minute when Magpies winger Hayden Spencer finished off a well constructed move to socre in the corner for five eighth Ben Shaw to convert and level the scores at 6-all.
Scanlan then completed his hat trick by half time with tries in the 27th and 39th minutes to give the Saints an 18-6 half time lead after St Marys half Jake Butfield converted all three of Scanlan’s tries.
After Saints second rower Jak Cannell scored in the first set of the second half for a 24-6 lead with Butfield’s conversion, it again appeared that the visitors would go on with the job.
However, Asquith dominated field position and possession for the next 20 minutes as they camped inside St Marys’ territory.
However, the Magpies could not convert their multitude of chances, and were made to pay when inevitably the Saints got some field position of their own.
Scanlan’s fourth try from a right side move killed the game off at 30-6 with Butfield’s touch line conversion, before the Saints went on with the job against a tired Asquith defence in the closing stages.
Opposite winger Jamon Wormleaton joined the party with a double down his left wing, before Scanlan pu the finishing touches to the win with his fifth try with three minutes left with Butfield landing his last kick on the way to seven goals from eight attempts with the boot.
With the top six sides all winning, there is no change in the order with Mounties (34 points) still leading by four points from the Seagulls (30) with St Marys third (26) and East Campbelltown fourth (22) on percentages ahead of Guildford (22) with Belrose next (21).
The staggering Wentworthville (18) and the game Windsor (14) round out the Top Eight.
Asquith is still at the bottom of the ladder with their one win and two points for the season.
A full round of matches is set down for this weekend with East Campbelltown travelling to the foot of the Blue Mountains to take on St Marys on Friday Night at 7:00pm to kick off the round.
There are then two matches on Saturday and four matches on Sunday – with the Belrose clash with Guildford at Lionel Watts Reserve on Sunday the pick of the rest of the round.
Triple H FM continues its live footy coverage this weekend. First on Saturday, it’s the return of the hard hitting talk show “A View From The Hill” from midday to 1pm. Then on Sunday, the HHH League team cover the vital Sydney Shield match between the Belrose Eagles and the Guildford Owls at 2:30pm. All the weekend action can be heard on 100.1FM, on the internet via Web Streaming at www.triplehfm.com.au, or through the Radio TuneIn app.