The Belrose Eagles stormed back into the Sydney Shield top four with a 32-24 win over the Guildford Owls at Lionel Watts Reserve last Sunday.
Fourth spot came up for grabs for the winner after East Campbelltown were beaten by St Marys last Friday Night - so with the stakes so high, both sides upped the intensity for the match.
Giant young backrower Josh Maree got things going for Guildford in the eighth minute when he finished off a nice left side movement to score.
Then winger Shane Hunt finished off another left side move for his first try in the 17th minute for Maree to convert from wide out to send the Owls to a 10-nil lead.
Then Belrose got some football and field position - and quickly turned the first half around.
A superb Blake Nichols face ball found second rower Beau Abrahams running a great angled line to score for 10-6 with Nichols' conversion, before Nichols crawled over to score after appearing to be held in a tackle to give Belrose the lead at 12-10 with his own conversion.
After a long arm wrestle, Belrose got the vital try just before half time when Luke Betts strolled over to score off another Nichols pass and give the Eagles an 18-10 half time lead with another Nichols' conversion.
Guildford half Reed Mahoney brought the visitors back into the match when he scored from close range seven minutes into the second half for 18-16 with Maree's conversion.
Belrose then established what appeared to be a commanding lead with a double to winger Alex Franklin - first from an intercept and a 50 metre dash under the posts, and then finishing a simple right side move mid way through the second half – or the Eagles to lead 30-16 with 20 minutes to go.
Not for the first time this season, Guildford came storming back to set up hopes of another comeback grandstand finish.
Guildford winger Amanaki Manu finished off an right edge overlap to score with 15 minutes left for 30-20, then Hunt got his second try with four minutes left to give Guildford a shout of a draw at 30-24 that would have given Guildford fourth spot themselves.
The Owls then dropped the ball in the restart set from the kickoff to finish their chances.
The match finished in a bitter postscript as firstly Owls hooker Julian King was penalised by referee Damien Simes for dissent, then sin binned for further dissent as the final siren sounded.
Then brother and Owls fullback Jeremy King chipped in with some choice words and was duly sent off by referee Simes for further serious dissent.
Nichols landed the easy penalty goal to finish the match at 32-24.
Fourth spot came up for grabs after St Marys edged out East Campbelltown 22-16 at St Marys Leagues Stadium last Friday Night.
East Campbelltown started the critical match off well – when winger Craig Moustakas posted his 15th try of the season in the corner to open the scoring in the eighth minute. It was the only time all night that the Eagles led.
The Saints worked their way into the arm wrestle and struck back centre John Tuliatu scored his first try in the 20th minute for Jake Butfield to convert and give St Marys a 6-4 lead.
St Marys extended their lead when winger Peter Scanlan got his first try in the opposite corner with three minutes left in the half to give the Saints a 10-4 lead at the break.
Tuliatu got his second try four minutes into the second half to extend the Saints’ lead to 14-4.
The Saints then got the vital try 10 minutes later when interchange player Peter Nay finished off a move out wide to score and extend the St Marys lead to 18-4.
East Campbelltown then mounted their comeback in the last 20 minutes to try and save their fourth place on the table.
Interchange half/hooker Chris Standing got the Eagles’ second try in the 60th minute to bring scores back to 18-10 with Sean Connor’s conversion.
East Campbelltown set up the grandstand finish when centre Ronny Palumbo finished off a let side raid with 13 minutes left to score. Connor converted to bring the difference back to two points at 18-16.
St Marys then steadied after the Eagles applied great pressure to no avail, and struck the winning blow when Scanlan got his second try for the night in the corner with six minutes left at 22-16.
The Saints then held on in the closing stages in the face of more late East Campbelltown pressure to secure their win and send the Eagles out of the Top Four.
The Peninsula Seagulls had to work harder than they expected to chalk up their eighth straight Sydney Shield win when they were eventually too good for a pesky Western Suburbs Magpies 38-20 at Lidcombe Oval last Saturday.
Wests - with their fading finals hopes on the line - started off blazing when after receiving an early penalty, Jarden Sajnovic pounced on a Blake Cavallaro cross kick to open the scoring in just the 2nd minute.
Wests then extended their lead when Jai Doolan nabbed his 18th try for the season after pulling the Seagulls pants down in defence from a dummy half break and chip chase ahead to score. Cavallaro converted for a shock 10-nil Wests lead.
Then the Seagulls - who rested Jake Pickering for this match - then clicked into some sort of gear when five eighth Luke Martin finished off a midfield break to score and convert in the 14th minute to bring the scores back to 10-6.
Seagulls centre Jerrod See then levelled scores when he finished a length of the field move from the restart.
Wests centre Jack Pearce then regained the lead for the Magpies at 14-10 when he made the most of a penalty from a Seagulls turnover to score out wide.
The Seagulls flexed some more attacking muscle when other centre Barry 'Panda' McGrady snapped an intercept to dash 60 metres to score, before Santana Palmer finished a well worked move to score in the last minute of the half to give the Seagulls a 22-14 lead at the break after Martin converted both tries.
Wests were not to be denied and they started the second half as hard as they did the first. When winger Apoala Tea Lama scored in the corner and Cavallaro converted 10 minutes into the second half, the Magpies were again within striking distance at 22-20.
Wests then could not take the chance from a bomb with a double knock on ruling going against them.
The Seagulls then pounced at the other end when winger Richie Goodwin won the race to another bomb that was allowed to bounce and scored. Martin converted and the Seagulls had a buffer again at 28-20.
The Seagulls then steadied in the last 10 minutes against a tiring Magpies defence.
Stand in half Jon Grimes was rewarded for his work with a good try to put the seal on the Seagulls win with seven minutes left, before McGrady bagged his second try with three minutes left for Martin to convert and blow out the final score to 38-20.
Competition leaders Mounties were again made to work before eventually chalking up their 17th successive win in beating a plucky Auburn Warriors outfit 46-22 at Lidcombe Oval last Sunday.
The Warriors meant early business when centre Chris Cunningham got the first try in just the third minute to give Auburn an early 4-nil lead.
The Mulga – missing Jake Horton and Maiko Sivo from their line up for various reasons – then responded when experienced winger Sam Aiga levelled the scores with a replying tryh in the 6th minute.
Mounties then turned on an attacking blitz to break clear in the first half.
The Mulga posted three tries in five minutes – the second and third of the tries directly from restarts – blow the lead out to 20-6 after just 20 minutes.
Stand in winger DJ Lokeni-Purcell, five eighth Maile Li (with his first try for the day) and centre Josh Toole all crossed in this period. Aiga converted Li’s and Toole’s tries to help blow out the lead.
Just as it appeared it would be another ‘business as usual’ day out for Mounties, the plucky Auburn came back in the closing stages of the half when they got some football.
Winger Antonio Soni started the comeback in the 27th minute with a neat try converted by Jack Gibbons for 20-10, before prop Yahia Masri crashed over near the posts in the shadows of half time to have the Warriors back to 20-16 at the break when Gibbons landed the simple conversion.
After a tight start to the second half, Mounties again surged with two tries in three minutes – including another try from a restart set.
Half Brad Speechley crossed in the 50th minute, before Li got his second try in the next set from the restart. Aiga converted both tries and the Mulga breathed easier again at 32-16.
The Warriors then came back a second time when Gibbons brilliantly finished off a counter attack to score with 18 minutes left. Gibbons converted himself and the Warriors were still a chance at only 32-22 down.
Auburn had chances to make it a grandstand finish, before Mounties gave themselves a lat buffer with an Aiga penalty goal and a 34-22 lead with six minutes left.
A late double in the closing stages from Allen Mulia Malau – both converted by Aiga who finished with a personal tally of 18 points – finally put the game to bed for the relieved Mulga faithful.
A James Boustani led Hills District Bulls kept their faint finals hopes alive in a thrilling 30-28 win over a late surging Cabramatta at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.
Controversially sent back to the Shield squad after recent injuries and fluctuating form in Ron Massey Cup, the Lebanese Cedars international came out with a point to prove at half – and did so in having a hand in nearly all of the Bulls’ attack.
The Two Blues struck first when stalwart fullback Luke Lavender opened the scoring in the fifth minute with his first try to give the visitors an early 6-nil lead with Mike Munday’s conversion.
The Bulls then struck back when backrower Jayson Gerecs levelled scores in the eighth minute with a well worked try from close range Boustani to convert.
Hills District then surged in the middle of the half with winger Sam Shepherd returning to form with a double to give the Bulls the lead before opposite winger Stimon Mow finished off a sweeping movement in the other corner. Boustani converted all of both wingers’ tries to give the Bulls a comfortable 24-6 lead after half an hour.
The Two Blues stayed in touch when their winger Brent Castle finished off his first try from a counter attack in the corner in the shadows of half time. The Bulls led 24-10 at the break.
When second rower Jake Brennan crossed wide out 10 minutes into the second half, Boustani’s conversion – the half back landed five from five with the boot – appeared to give the Bulls a match winning 30-10 lead.
Cabramatta – just as much playing for their finals lives as the Bulls – then mounted their late comeback in the last 20 minutes.
First, interchange hooker Jordan Bichan burrowed over from close range for Nick Lisoff to convert at 30-16.
Then Castle completed his double in one corner, followed by Lavender completing his brace in the other. When centre Rod Mapa scored Cabra’s fourth try in 12 minutes, the Two Blues had brought the deficit back to two points at 30-28 and were charging home.
The Bulls then held on in the face of sustained Cabra attack in the closing stages to scrape home and keep their finals hopes alive.
Defending Premiers Wentworthville got back to some sort of form with an easy 52-12 win over Asquith in the all Magpies ‘battle of the birds’ last Sunday at Ringrose Park.
Wenty were never headed from the time fullback Emosi Alamoti got the first try in the first set of the match.
The home side welcomed back experienced backs KJ Mackenzie and Cecil Mackenzie to their line up – and both made their presence felt as they both scored two tries each.
Hooker Jenan Parrish also got a double as the home side had to work for a period of time to put the game away as Asquith once again competed for long periods in the match.
Kamren Cryer finished with a personal tally of 16 points with a clever try and six goals from 10 attempts with the boot.
Five eighth Keehan Diamond and winger Ryan Burroughs got Wenty’s other tries.
Prop Taylor McCann and hooker Dylan Van Noort got Asquith’s tries, with Aaron Papera landing both conversions.
Finally, the Windsor Wolves got a free ride into the Top Eight when Blacktown Workers sensationally forfeited their game to the Wolves that was set down for last Saturday just hours before the scheduled kick off last Saturday morning.
First, Wolves officials moved the match to Warragamba Sports Ground when Windsor Sports Complex was deemed unplayable early last Saturday morning.
Then the Workers Club informed Windsor and the NSW Rugby League of the forfeit mid-morning amid unconfirmed reports of player unrest and uncertaintly of the future of Workers’ coach Leon Latulipe.
Workers’ officials are expecting their team to take their place for their scheduled match against Auburn Warriors at Laybutt Fields this Saturday.
Mounties (36 points), the Seagulls (32) and St Marys (30) now all have Top Four spots secured with three rounds remaining, with Belrose’s win now moving them back into fourth spot on 23 points with a game in hand.
East Campbelltown and Guildford (22 each) are just out of the Top Four with Wentworthville (20) safely through to the Finals.
Windsor’s windfall from the Blacktown forfeit sees them on their own in eighth spot on 16 points.
Asquith’s loss confirmed their wooden spoon for the season with still the one win and two competition points.
This weekend sees another full round scheduled – circumstacnes permitting – with four set down for Saturday and three games set for Sunday.
All matches have a bearing on places in the eight – with the match of the round at Waminda Oval on Sunday as competition leaders Mounties look to extend their winning streak to 18 when they take on fifth placed East Campbelltown.
Radio HHH FM again comes to the fore with their coverage of grass roots league this weekend. The hard hitting League show “A View From The Hill” starts the weekend on Saturday at Midday. Then on Sunday, the HHH League Team is once again at North Sydney Oval for the Sydney Shield game between the Peninsula Seagulls and Hills District Bulls at 1pm, followed by the critical Intrust Super Premiership NSW game between the North Sydney Bears and the Illawarra Cutters at 3pm. All the weekend action can be caught on either 100.1FM, or via Web Streaming at www.triplehfm.com.au, or via the Radio TuneIn App.