The St Marys Saints caused a minor upset when they toppled the Peninsula Seagulls 38-22 in the Sydney Shield second Qualifying Final at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday.
On an opening weekend of finals where 46 tries were scored in the four games played, it was the Saints that set the made the biggest impact in qualifying for a Preliminary Final appearance.
The Seagulls looked the goods early – talismanic fullback Jake Pickering scored his 31st try of the season to open the scoring in just the fourth minute when he burnt off the cover defence for sheer pace in finishing a right side raid.
Half Luke Martin converted for a 6-nil Seagulls lead.
The Seagulls then doubled their lead in the 16th minute when winger Richie Goodwin finished off a left side movement to score for a 12-nil lead after Martin landed the extras.
Then the Saints came back strongly after getting some possession and field position as the Seagulls forwards slowed noticeably after their explosive start.
St Marys interchange hooker Peter Nay burrowed over from close range out of dummy half to get the Saints on the board in the 25th minute for 12-6 after Jonah Metuangaaro converted.
Minutes later, before opposite winger Peter Pakoti latched on to a superbly placed Jake Butfield cross kick following a long midfield break to score in the shadows of half time.
Metuangaro’s conversion from just inside the touch line gave the Saints a well deserved 18-12 lead at the break.
The Seagulls came out firing on attack to start the second half before Saints centre Gordon Toomalatai took a timely intercept five minutes into the second half and dashed 50 metres up the middle of the field.
Pickering made a great cover defensive tackle on the Saints centre, but was then sin binned on the next tackle by referee Darian Furner for being deliberately offside at marker.
From the ensuing penalty, Butfiled sliced through the 12 man defensive line to score and extend the lead out to 24-12 with Metuangaro’s conversion.
Scanlan then easily finished off a right side raid on Saints’ next attacking set whilst the Seagulls were still down to 12 men to score his second try. Metuangaro landed that conversion as well and the Saints had a commanding 30-12 lead.
The Seagulls showed some spark in attack upon Pickering’s return from the sin bin. Centre Barry McGrady burst through three tackles for a superb 35 metre individual try 15 minutes into the second half to bring the scores back to 30-18 with Maritn’s conversion.
However, the Saints defence stood up magnificently to whatever the Seagulls threw at them for the next 15 minutes, and steadied with a Metuangaro penalty goal 10 minutes from time to extend the lead to 32-18.
The Seagulls still had hope when centre Knox Time scored with seven minutes left to bring the Saints’ lead back to 32-22.
However, the Seagulls once more coughed up the ball in the closing stages to allow Shanan Wood to back up a Butfield break in the last minute and score to put the game to bed with Metuangaro’s conversion – and send the Seagulls into a sudden death semi final with Wentworthville this weekend.
Minor Premiers Mounties fought off an early Belrose ambush in the first Qualifying Final last Sunday at Campbelltown before eventually beating a 12 man Eagles outfit 38-30 to secure their Preliminary Final berth.
In a remarkable start to the match, Belrose made the most of regaining possession after the kick-off rebounded off the legs of Mounties lock Ben Whitehouse straight to Eagles hooker Dave Marando.
Two tackles later, Belrose second rower crashed over to open the scoring inside the first minute. Blake Nichols converted to give the Eagles a dream 6-nil start.
Another turnover in the Mulga’s first set from the restart saw Marando put through a deft grubber kick from dummy half on the last tackle to regather and score under the posts. Nichols converted from in front and Belrose had a remarkable 12-nil lead after just four minutes.
Mounties winger DJ Lokeni-Purcell got the Mulga on the board when he finished off the Minor Premiers’ first attacking move of the day to score in the corner in the 10th minute for 12-4.
However, Belrose had not yet finished their early onslaught. Prop Adam Saunders crashed over from close range in the 18th minute for 18-4 with Nichols’ conversion.
Then a superb chip kick over the top on the last tackle by Marando was superbly gathered in by fullback Christian Bate, who dashed 40 metres to score his 16th try of the season. Nichols again converted and the Belrose faithful dared to dream of the upset with a 24-4 lead after just 25 minutes.
Mounties then managed to get some football in the closing stages of the half – and gave a taste of what was to come when firstly Blake Ritchie crossed to score 11 minutes from the interval for 24-10 with Jake Horton’s conversion.
Powerhouse centre Fou Tagiilima then rampaged his way over on the end of a Mounties movement three minutes from half time to have the Mulga within striking distance at the break at only 24-16 down after Horton again converted.
Horton then marked his return from injury in the early stages of the second half with two tries of his own – the first off a neat short ball from Brad Speechley to bring the scores back to 24-22 with his own conversion after 12 minutes of the second half.
Horton then finished off a well constructed move to complete his double three minutes later and score his 22nd try for the season. He again duly converted and the Mulga had finally hit the front at 28-24 after 15 minutes of the second half.
To make things worse for Belrose, Nichols had to leave the field at this point with a foot injury and did not return for the last half hour.
The Mulga now had the bit between their teeth while Belrose began to give away penalties as their supreme early effort caught up with them.
Another well timed Brad Speechley pass found brother Luke, who crashed over out wide to extend the lead to 34-24 with another Horton conversion.
Frustration with the second half became too much for Belrose back rower Josh Nicholls shortly after the Speechley try – with Nicholls sensationally sent off by referee Phillip Sung for serious dissent to reduce Belrose to 12 men for the last 20 minutes of the match.
The Mulga were almost now making breaks at will with the flood of possession.
Another Tagiilima break sent flying winger Maiko Siva away on a 50 metre dash to score his 39th try for the season (and 41st try in all games for the Mulga this season) with 15 minutes left to give Mounties a 38-24 lead.
Belrose’s 12 men were brave in the closing stages – and even raised hopes of a miracle comeback when five eighth Alex Zarounas finished a right side movement for the game’s last try with 12 minutes left. Marando converted to bring Belrose back to 38-30.
Mounties comfortably ran down the clock in the last 10 minutes – as Belrose frittered away the few chances they had left – to earn a week off and send Belrose into a sudden death semi final with East Campbelltown this Sunday.
East Campbelltown booked their semi final place after surviving a massive scare from Cabramatta before eventually being too good for the Two Blues 38-26 in the first Elimination Final at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday.
The Two Blues – who scraped into eighth spot in the last round of the regular season – came out breathing fire in taking it right up to the Eagles.
Winger Jake Webb got Cabra off to the best possible start in the just the fifth minute when he scored the opening try in the corner. Mikaera Ormsby converted and the Two Blues led 6-nil.
Centre Jamie Harrison doubled the Cabra lead from the restart set when he finished a blind side movement to score for 12-nil with Ormsby’s conversion after just eight minutes.
Webb completed his double 12 minutes later, and Ormsby’s third straight conversion gave Cabra a shock 18-nil lead over a non plussed Eagles outfit.
East Campbelltown got to hang on to the ball late in the first half and converted their possession into points.
Sean Connor got the Eagles on the board 10 minutes out from half time with their first major, before former Wests Tigers NYC half Wade Dunley started and finished a second phase move through multiple hands to have East Campbelltown within striking distance at only 18-12 down at the break after Ben Baker converted both first half tries.
Dunley then completed his double in the first set of six tackles from the kickoff to the second half to level scores at 18-all with another Baker conversion.
Webb landed a penalty goal 13 minutes into the second half to regain the lead for the Two Blues at 20-18, before a Cabramatta turnover from the restart allowed the Eagles the opportunity for honest second rower Ronny Palumbo to score.
Baker again converted and the Eagles again led 24-20.
However, Cabramatta were not to be denied and came again midway through the second half when prop Siupeli Huihahau crashed over from close range with 16 minutes left. Ormsby converted and the Two Blues were back in front 26-24.
Just as the Two Blues appeared to be hanging on for the upset, East Campbelltown’s potent backline then struck.
A long cut out pass by Dunley after a Baker break found winger Craig Moustakas who dived over in the corner to regain the lead for the Eagles with eight minutes left at 30-26 with Baker’s touchline conversion.
Another sweeping movement three minutes later saw Moustakas score the match winning try – again in the corner – for his 17th try of the season. Baker missed the conversion but East Campbelltown were home at 34-26 with time running out.
Baker then finished the gallant Two Blues’ season in the final minute with a runaway 50 metre try of his own to close out the 38-26 win and a showdown with Belrose this Sunday.
Finally, a brilliant second half hat trick by fullback K-J MacKenzie lifted defending Shield Premiers Wentworthville to a 46-30 win over Guildford in the second Elimination Final at St Marys Leagues Stadium last Sunday.
In a try for try contest where defence at times went missing, the Magpies got the early jump on the Owls with early tries to winger Ryan Burrough and centre Cecil MacKenzie to lead 12-nil after 10 minutes after Jayson Lombardo converted both early majors.
The Owls struck back with tries to hooker Julian King and half Anthony Layoun to level up at 12-all after 20 minutes – with Josh Maree landing both early conversions.
Owls second rower Caleb Hunt got his first try 12 minutes from the break to give Guildford the lead for the first time at 18-12 after Maree converted
Wenty replied again on the back of repeat sets when Cecil MacKenzie completed his double nine minutes from half time to level scores again at 18-all after Lombardo converted.
The Magpies then regained the lead when hooker Jenan Parrish scored from dummy half five minutes from half time to have Wenty in front 24-18 as Lombardo made it four conversions from four attempts.
Maree converted a penalty goal after the half time siren to have Wenty in front 24-20 at the break.
Hunt completed his double in the first set of six tackles of the second half to set up an exciting last 40 minutes with scores locked up for a third time at 24-all.
However, Wenty then clicked into gear for one of theirafte first times this season to show that their title defence is far from over – with fullback MacKenzie on his long awaited return the catalyst for the Magpies’ superb second half.
The custodian started his hat trick five minutes into the second half, then completed his double midway through the second half after five eighth Keehan Diamond scored a superb try of his own between MacKenzie’s brace.
MacKenzie then completed his hat trick to put the game to bed at 46-24 – and finish Guildford’s season – with nine minutes left after Lombardo completed his seventh conversion from eight attempts.
Prop Siaosi Nalesoni got a consolation try for Guildford in the final minute with Layoun converting after the final siren to close out the scoring at 46-30 – but it was too little, too late to stop Wentworthville’s meeting with the Seagulls this Sunday.
Week 2 of the Finals sees both sudden death semi-finals set down for St Marys Leagues Stadium on Sunday.
Belrose will play East Campbelltown in the “all Eagles” semi-final at 10am, before the Seagulls take on Wentworthville in the other semi final at Midday.
Radio HHH FM again comes to the fore with their coverage of the NSWRL Finals Series 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 cover all four finals matches set down for St Marys Leagues Stadium in a feast for grass roots finals footy – and as the only station covering the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield finals this weekend. Coverage starts with the live calls of the Sydney Shield semi final between the Peninsula Seagulls and the Wentworthville Magpies at Midday, then follows up with the Ron Massey Cup semi finals between Wests and Guildford at 2pm, followed by Mounties taking on Hills District Bulls at 4pm. The quadruple treat finishes with the replay of the Belrose showdown with East Campbelltown in the Sydney Shield semi final at 6pm – to finish 8 hours of monster all day coverage. 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.