The St Marys Saints qualified for their first ever Ron Massey Cup Grand Final with a thrilling 20-14 Preliminary Final win over a brave Western Suburbs Magpies in wet, windy conditions at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday.
In a match that became a match of two contrasting halves, the Saints got their Grand Final berth on the back of great field position and the majority of possession for most of the first half in the driving rain and biting southerly winds that swept across Campbelltown from the kickoff.
After a scoreless first 20 minutes, the sustained Saints pressure told when centre Ray Leso got to the bouncing ball from an Adrian Davis kick first despite claims by Wests winger Tala Mapesone that he arrived first. Davis converted and St Marys led 6-nil.
Another pin point Davis kick saw the Saints double their lead in the shadows of half time when former Wests Tigers and Penrith NRL centre Geoff Daniela completed the move to score wide out.
Davis added the extras and the Saints had a handy 12-nil lead in the conditions at the break.
St Marys got the vital first try of the second half just two minutes into the second stanza after taking more field position from a relieving penalty.
Second rower Tom Eisenhuth crashed over to score after a 20 metre burst through the Magpies defence to extend the Saints lead to 16-nil.
Then came the Magpies thrilling comeback as they dominated the middle period of the second half.
After Davis gave away a penalty for holding down in the tackle, Wests finally got decent field position and possession, The Magpies made the most of this when Mapesone finished off some neat work from Ron Massey Cup player of the year Brendan Waters to score in the corner.
Shannon Gallant converted to have Wests on the board at 16-6 with only 10 minutes gone in the second half.
The large sized Magpies supporter contingent then rose to their feet five minutes later as centre Inno Inosesio completed another right side raid led by hooker Dayne Craig to score. Gallant missed the conversion by Wests were charging back at 16-10.
A couple of key errors in the Magpies’ next couple of sets then set up the Saints with field position with 11 minutes left when winger Chris Aunese-Scanlan finished off a Sam Jones pass to score wide out. Davis missed the conversion but the Saints had a buffer at 20-10.
Wests had one last chance after winger Kurt Atkinson cleaned up a turnover with a good try in the left corner with five minutes left. Gallant missed the conversion by the Magpies were still alive at 20-14 down.
Wests were unable to take their chances in the closing stages, and St Marys held on to secure their Grand Final place – and break Magpies hearts.
Defending champs and Minor Premiers Mounties qualified for their fourth straight Ron Massey Cup Grand Final with a grinding 16-6 win over Wentworthville in the other Preliminary Final played at Leichhardt Oval last Sunday.
In almost a carbon copy of the Preliminary Final played 12 months earlier between the same two proud clubs at the same venue, the Mulga were able to outlast a game Wenty outfit in a match that became another defensive slugfest in the second half.
The only difference between the Preliminary Finals played 12 months apart was that the bulk of the points were scored in the first half last Sunday – unlike all the points scored in the second half in 2015.
After a tight start, winger Jordan Martin opened the scoring by finishing a right sided raid the corner to give the Mulga a 4-nil lead.
As both sides continued to strive for domination in the middle to revive memories of their 2015 arm wrestle, centre Paul Simona burst through the Wenty defensive line eight minutes from half time to score from 30 metres out under the posts.
Jake Walsh converted for a 10-nil Mounties lead.
The Magpies struck back from a Mulga turnover in the shadows of half time when fullback Lindon McGrady finished a off a backline movment to score. Dylan Izzard converted and Mounties led 10-6 at the break.
The second half further revived memories of the 12-2 win that the Mulga scored in the 2015 Final when the arm wrestle marked by dogged bone jarring defence continued – with both sides waiting for the other to blink first.
The break came with 20 minutes to play. After sustained pressure, a Chad Porter grubber in behind the Wenty defence saw centre Allen Mulia Malau pounce on the ball to score the critical try – the only points of the second half. Walsh converted and the Mulga had a 16-6 lead.
Mounties maintained their lead comfortably enough in the last 20 minutes. Despite both sides having their chances in the closing stages, Wenty could not crack the Mulga defence – and Mounties ground their way to the final siren to secure their Grand Final place.
Mounties will take on St Marys in Sunday’s Grand Final at 2:10pm in a re-match of the thrilling 1st Qualifying Final played at Campbelltown that was won by a Davis inspired Saints.
Radio HHH FM again comes to the fore with their coverage of grass roots league this Grand Final weekend. The hard hitting League show “A View From The Hill” then starts the weekend on Saturday at Midday – where NSWRL CEO David Trodden will a special guest to discuss the NSWRL season. Then on Sunday, the HHH League Team will cover 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day like no other team – covering the Sydney Shield decider between Mounties and East Campbelltown at 12:10pm, followed by the Ron Massey Cup Grand Final between Mounties and St Marys at 2:10pm. Grand Final Day 2016 will finish with the Intrust Super Premiership showdown between Mounties and the Illawarra Cutters at 4:15pm. 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.