The Cabramatta Two Blues snatched the last place in the Sydney Shield finals series when they toppled Windsor 20-10 at Windsor Sports Complex last Saturday evening.
In a match that was played at a semi-final intensity, Cabramatta winger Jake Webb got the only try of the first half in the 15th minute in the left corner. Ernest Alo missed the conversion from wide out.
Despite both sides having chances whilst having a torrid battle through the middle, Cabramatta held their narrow 4-nil lead into the half time break.
The Two Blues opened the game up when opposite winger Jamie Harrison doubled the lead to 8-nil 11 minutes into the second half when he finished off a movement in the right corner to score.
Evergreen Two Blues stalwart Luke Lavender – on his way (along with BJ Nathan) to playing two full games ‘back to back’ on the one night in Cabra colours thanks to ‘buttering up’ in the following Ron Massey Cup fixture – then extended the lead further with a superb try four minutes later.
Alo converted this time and the Two Blues were up 14-nil and looking the goods.
The Wolves then fought back with a double to powerful interchange back Abe Murdock.
Murdock got his first in the 60th minute to get Windsor on the board at 14-4, before he finished a short side move with six minutes left to set up a nail biting finish for the last spot in the Top Eight at 14-10 with Aaron Farkas’ conversion.
A turnover from the restart set, then set up the Two Blues for prime attacking position. Lavender made the most of the chance with his second try with four minutes left.
Alo converted and Cabramatta were home and in the playoffs at 20-10 – a lead they held to final siren to finish Windsor’s season ‘in the shadows of the winning post’ after the Wolves held down eighth spot for the last month of the regular season.
Earlier in the day at Concord Oval, Western Suburbs lost their chance to scrape into the finals – but went down swinging as St Marys scrambled home to beat the Magpies 28-26 in a thriller.
After a scoreless opening 10 minutes St Marys got on the board first when second rower Ryan Jeffrey picked up the dregs of a dropped bomb to score.
Wests replied when Magpies second rower Pio Sofa crashed over from close range to give the home side a 6-4 lead with Jack Pearce’s conversion.
The Magpies then took advantage of referee Matt Treneman reducing the Saints to 12 men via a sin binning when centre Jarden Sajnovic finishing off a sustained passing movement in holding the cover defence out wide to post his try and a 10-4 Wests lead.
When both sides were back to 13 players each, the Saints struck back when prop Jared Canon burst through a gap to score under the posts to level the scores with Jonah Metuangaro’s conversion.
Metuangaro then finished off a sweeping backline movement to score out wide on the next set from the re-start, before winger Kyle Smith finished off a movement in the opposite corner in the shadows of half time to give the Saints three tries in eight minutes and an 18-10 half time lead.
After another scoreless first ten minutes – this time of the second half – Smith finished a short blind side movement to score wide out in the 52nd minute. Metuangaro’s again missed the conversion from wide out and the Saints led 22-10.
Wests came back midway through the second half when winger Apoala Tealama finished off a Paul Roberts cross kick and Pearce tip on to score wide out for 22-14, before Saints centre Jamon Wormleaton completed some chain passing to score down the right for Metuangaro to finally land a conversion and St Marys to lead 28-14 with 14 minutes left.
The Magpies – with their season on the line – raised one last effort in those final 14 minutes. With 10 minutes left, Roberts brilliantly chipped over the top and regathered to score under the posts, before lock George Nasilai finished off a sustained attack under the posts to bring the scores back to 28-26 with Pearce’s conversion.
Wests then threw everything at the Saints’ defence in the final frantic few minutes, but St Marys held on with their goal line defence to scramble home and end the Magpies’ season.
The out of finals contention Auburn Warriors – who were short on their interchange bench due to playing in a winning Grand Final in the Sydney Combined A Grade the previous night – that completed the upset of the round in toppling finals bound Guildford 22-16 at Lidcombe Oval last Sunday.
After a tight opening 20 minutes, Warriors lock Yahia Masri opened the scoring with the first try for Connor Jones to convert.
The Owls replied when winger Shane Hunt finished an overlap movement to get Guildford on the board at 6-4. Despite both sides having ample possession, there was no addition to the scores by half time.
The Owls looked to start the second half better and were rewarded when half Reed Mahoney scored six minutes into the second half to give Guildford the lead for the first time at 10-6 with Josh Maree’s conversion.
However, Auburn continued to bustle the unusually flat Owls outfit into errors with solid defence. This pressure was converted by the Warriors into a blitz of three tries in nine minutes midway through the second half to turn the match.
First, centre Antonio Soni crossed to score wide out to level the scores at 10 apiece.
Then half back Josh Farrant scored a superb individual double against a non plussed Owls defence to shoot the Warriors out to a 22-10 lead with 15 minutes left after Jones converted both of Farrant’s tries.
The Warriors defence then held firm in the closing stages to secure a win that saw the Warriors finish the season just one point outside of the Top Eight.
The Owls only managed to score in the last minute when centre Michael Tupou finally finished off a Guildford backline movement to score.
Maree’s conversion just before the final bell came too late to save the Owls from dropping to sixth spot on the final table.
A masterclass from 2015 Shield Player of the Year Ben Baker – including a hat trick of tries – saw East Campbelltown take fifth spot with an emphatic 44-20 win over defending premiers Wentworthville at Waminda Oval last Sunday.
In a match between two teams that had already qualified for the knockout semi-finals the following week, it was the Eagles that exploded out of the blocks with two tries in the first six minutes through winger Jovani Vatuvei and second rower Mason Talolua to have the home side up 10-nil after Baker converted Vatuvei’s try.
Baker – starting at centre, but interchanging with Sean Connor between fullback and centre to keep Wenty guessing in defence – then scored his first try after 14 minutes to have the Eagles up with the clock at 14-nil.
Experienced centre Cecil MacKenzie finally got the Magpies on the board with his first try in the 18th minute at 14-4, before interchange half Chris Standing came off the bench with immediate impact to score and again blow the Eagles lead out to 20-4 with Baker’s conversion.
MacKenzie completed his double in the shadows of half time to keep the Magpies in striking distance at 20-8 down at the break.
The classy East Campbelltown backline cut loose in the second half against a disappointing Wenty defence to break the game wide open, then put the game to bed.
Baker scored his second try nine minutes into the second half, before Connor helped himself to a try five minutes later.
Consistent winger Craig Moustakas completed his 16th try for the season from the restart set from Connor’s try, before Baker brilliantly completed his hat trick to bring up his 22nd try of the season and a fourth Eagles try in the space of just 16 minutes.
Baker converted all four of the Eagles’ second half tries to blow the score out to a remarkable 44-8 with 15 minutes left against a shell-shocked Wenty outfit.
With the result well beyond doubt, Wenty got late tries in the last five minutes to five eighth Keehan Diamond and half Jayson Lombardo which Lombardo both converted – but that only made the final score semi-respectable at 44-20.
Baker’s landed six goals from eight attempts for a personal tally of 24 points in an ominous return to form in time for the finals – bringing up his 200 points for the season to finish the match with 202 for the year to date.
A remarkable haul of six tries by leading try scorer Maika Sivo propelled Minor Premiers Mounties to a 66-14 thrashing of an undermanned Blacktown Workers at Aubrey Keech Reserve last Saturday.
Showing that they had not lost any momentum after their previous week’s forfeit to Guildford, the Mulga wasted no time in getting to early work with Sivo getting his – and Mounties’ – first try in the opening set of the match.
Promising young hooker Luke Cauchi then scored from close range in the sixth minute for an 8-nil lead, before Sivo got his second try for leading pointscorer Luke Horton to convert on his first game back from injury to have the home side away with a 14-nil lead.
The gallant Workers – who only had one fresh reserve and a 14 man rotation reduce with a serious injury in the first 15 minutes to no reserves and a bare 13 man outfit – battled hard and got on the board when centre Jake Gillett got their opening try in the 17th minute from a Mounties turnover for 14-4.
The match then became the Sivo spectacular.
The flying winger completed his hat trick in the 21st minute, before making it four tries for the half in the shadows of half time. Workers second rower David Filimona got a major between Sivo’s third and fourth tries to have Mounties in front 22-10 at the break.
Hungry for more, Sivo was far from finished yet going into the second half. He bagged try number five for the day in the opening set of the second half to virtually make sure of the two competition points at 28-10 with Cauchi adding the extras.
The brave Workers fought back when Tiamana Tamaariki-Amosa – who started as the sole interchange player, but had to play close to a full game – got the Workers’ third try at 28-14.
Sivo then threatened to turn the match into his own personal workout with his sixth try – out of seven that the Mulga had scored to that point – two minutes later to extend the home side lead to 32-14.
This gave Sivo an almost unbelievable 38 tries for the season in just 19 games played in Shield – and by this point conjecture was whether the record for individual number of tries in a Shield match (seven) and the unreachable 40 tries in a season (never posted at NSWRL level) could be reached by Sivo by full time.
Alas, there were no further tries for Sivo as the others in the Mounties backline stepped in for their piece of the action.
As the toll of having just 13 players for the majority of the match started to tell on the tired Workers outfit, Mounties went on with the job in the last 20 minutes.
Interchange forward Phoenix Vaiotu, opposite winger Sam Aiga and center DJ Lokeni-Purcell all got second half doubles, with second rower Fou Tagiilima getting the last of The Mulga’s 14 tries in the final minute.
Horton landed only three conversions in his comeback match to still give him 306 points for the season to be the leading points scorer in the Shield competition.
Sivo’s haul of 38 tries for the season equals that of pre-World War II star Dave Brown – who scored 38 tries in just 15 games in the all-conquering Easts team of 1935 in the NSWRL main 1st Division competition.
Hills District Bulls finished their season in style with a 94-nil annihilation of wooden spooners Asquith at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.
Against an Asquith outfit that could only put 13 players on the field and forced coach Ina Papera to use himself at the sole fresh reserve, the Bulls opened the scoring when former Magpie Meli Katia got the first try in the third minute for a 6-nil lead with Hayden McWilliam’s conversion.
After a 15 minute period where Asquith held their own bravely in defence, the floodgates opened when Bulls winger Ash Johnson scored the first of his five tries in the 18th minute and a 12-nil lead with another McWilliam conversion.
From that point, the match became the most one sided contest – with the biggest winning margin – of the Shield season.
The Bulls scored six more first half tries to take a 44-nil lead to the half time break. Katia and Johnson completed their doubles, with centre Tulsa Saumamao and hooker Jaz Flavell posting their first tries each. Second rowers Jake Brennan and Jordan Tongahai also got first half tries.
The procession continued in the second half as the Bulls ran in nine more tries to finish with 17 unanswered majors in all.
Prop Jake Ferguson got things rolling in the first set of the second half from close range, before Johnson’s hat trick brought up the Bulls’ 50 points.
Flavell and Saumamao completed their doubles in the second half, while centre Josh Shepherd and interchange back Rory Brownlie got their tries in the second stanza as well.
When Johnson completed his fourth, then fifth tries with 10 minutes left, the interest became whether the Bulls could reach a century of points by full-time. When half Tyler Harris scored what turned out to be the game’s final try with five minutes left, the Bulls had time at 94-nil to get the three figures.
The Bulls could not get the ball for long enough – Asquith in fact had most of the possession in the closing stages and in fact threatened to score themselves – to get the shot at the century.
Finally, the Peninsula Seagulls forfeited their “Peninsula Derby” match to Belrose that was set down for Lionel Watts Reserve last Friday Night.
Citing unavailability of players due to injuries and the Manly Junior League allegedly not releasing Narrabeen players from a Junior League 2nd Division Preliminary Final last Sunday to step up to their reserves bench to put out a team, the Seagulls forfeited the match to the NSW Rugby League last Friday morning – a matter of hours before the scheduled 7:00pm kickoff.
The Top Four of Mounties (40 points), Seagulls (36), St Marys (34) and Belrose (31) were unchanged and decided going into the final round.
East Campbelltown’s last round win saw them take fifth spot ahead of Guildford on percentage after they both finished with 26 points.
Wentworthville (24) finshed seventh, with Cabramatta taking the last place in the finals ahead of Windsor and Wests on percentages – despite all three teams finishing on 16 points.
Auburn Warriors finished next on 15, followed by the HilIs District Bulls (14), Blacktown Workers (12) and Asquith (2) – who had just the one win from 22 games for their troubled season.
The first week of the finals this weekend sees one match at St Marys Leagues Stadium – the 2nd Elimination Final between Guildford and Wentworthville – on Sunday at Midday.
All of the other Week 1 Finals will be played at Campbelltown Stadium – also on Sunday.
The matches start with the 1st Elimination Final between East Campbelltown and Cabramatta at 10am, before both Qualifying Finals are played.
The Seagulls will take on St Marys in the second Qualifying Final at Midday, before Mounties play Belrose at 2pm.
Radio HHH FM again comes to the fore with the start of their Finals Series coverage 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 heads to Campbelltown Stadium for an action packed triple header. Sunday’s coverage starts with the Sydney Shield Qualifying Finals between the Peninsula Seagulls and St Marys at Midday, followed by the Mounties clash with Belrose at 2pm. The triple header finishes with the Ron Massey Cup Qualifying Final between Mounties and St Marys at 4pm. 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.