The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles have officially secured their first win in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, defeating Illawarra 36-18 at Lottoland this afternoon.
With the Sea Eagles enjoying their ideal halves pairing of Cameron Cullen and Jackson Hastings - just the second time the pair had combined this season - both playmakers were in control while on the field, while fullback Pita Godinet also added some attacking spark. Jacob Host and Luciano Leilua were damaging for the visiting side, while Mat Head's men will draw a positive from their ability to hold the Sea Eagles scoreless in the second stanza.
A hard-running Luciano Leilua ensured the defending premiers were the first on the scoreboard, breaking a tackle with ease to barge over the Sea Eagles' line. With a poor conversion attempt from Nona it was 4-0 in favour of the visitors.
The Sea Eagles were looking dangerous close to Illawarra's line, with a marginally forward pass from Jackson Hastings almost putting Shaun Lane across to score. When Hastings got another chance to make an impact, however, he made no mistake, putting up a bomb which was taken beautifully by Matthew Wright, who scored. Hastings converted from in front for a 6-4 lead.
Cameron Cullen soon put his own stamp on the game, taking a ball from his halves partner before a great individual effort ended in a try. The five-eighth isolated and got past Leilua in defence, running 50 metres and throwing a dummy to score under the posts. It took the score to 12-4 with the conversion.
Minutes later, Izaac Thompson came up with a brilliant effort to hit back against the Sea Eagles, taking a cut-out ball from Matt Dufty to tip-toe down the sideline and dive into the corner. Planting the ball just millimetres inside the field of play, Nona then converted from out wide for a 12-10 score.
A charge down from Cullen soon got the Sea Eagles back into a position to compound the visitors' woes, with Godinet then producing the goods. The fullback came up with a beautiful pass to find Viliami Kaveinga on the right touch line, with the winger coming around to score. The Blacktown side surged ahead to an 18-10 lead.
In the finals minutes of the first half, a lethal right edge came up with two more tries for the Sea Eagles. First, a Shaun Lane offload found Wright, who passed it to Peter Schuster to score a 50-metre try, converted once again by Hastings. Schuster then passed back inside for Lane who scored his first try of the year, with the halfback adding the extras once more. As both sides headed into the sheds, the home side had a convincing 30-10 lead.
Both sides were willing in the second half, but the scores remained for the third quarter. With 26 minutes remaining, the Sea Eagles were dealt a significant blow with the in-form Hastings leaving the field for a Head Injury Assessment. The halfback would not return from the sidelines.
With just 18 minutes remaining, Illawarra finally got across the line once more, with Nona catching the Blacktown defence napping with a perfectly-placed grubber. Patrick Herbert beat Dufty to the football to plant it down, with the try unconverted for a 30-14 score.
Time was quickly running out for Illawarra and the side turned to a play that worked early in the first half; attacking the Sea Eagles' line, Jacob Host kept the ball alive for Leilua, who drifted across field and hit the defensive line hard to crash through and score a second. With the kick waved away, however, the score was 30-18 with nine minutes remaining, making life difficult for the men from Wollongong.
The result had been decided in the final two minutes, but Cullen wasn't finished with, taking the line on and showing his pace to cross for his second. The Joey Lussick conversion took the full-time scores to 36-18 and the first win for the Blacktown side.
Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 36 (C Cullen 2, M Wright, V Kaveinga, P Schuster, S Lane tries; J Hastings 5, J Lussick goals) def Illawarra 18 (L Leilua 2, I Thompson, P Herbert tries; S Nona goal)