WEEK THAT WAS | Sydney Shield Round 8

Sydney Shield contenders St Marys Saints returned to the winner’s list with a hard fought 30-22 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in their match at St Marys Leagues Stadium last Saturday.

An early double from classy Saints centre got the home side going in the first half while his direct opposing centre Josese Rika replied after 20 minutes to open the visitors’ account.

Saints interchange player Robbie Graham got a critical try late in the first half to give the home side a handy 18-6 at the interval.

Not to be denied – and in a repeat show of great club spirit in the face of adversity after again having to field a host of new players from within their feeder ranks in the wake of a continuing player exodus – Blacktown came back hard at the Saints.

Rika completed his double in the first set of the second half, before debutant back rower Ed Wulf finished off a right-side raid to level the scores at 18-all to set the match up 10 minutes into the second half.

Both sides had chances before Saints interchange player Brad Borland scored to put the Saints back 24-18 in front in the 56th minute.

Blacktown came back one last time when Daniel Cassone scored wide out to get the visitors back to within two points with 14 minutes left, before Saints prop Jake Brennan got through the defence from close range to score what turned out to be the winning try with nine minutes left.

The Saints defence held out in the closing stages to secure the two competition points.

In a what is becoming a typical Sydney Shield tryfest, the Guildford Owls made it back to back wins when they came from behind to over-run Western Suburbs 44-32 at Leichhardt Oval last Saturday.

The Magpies started the match on fire – in an opening blitz, centre Joe Kaufusitua had an early double, while half Blake Higgins and winger Roderigus Ceasar got early tries to give Wests a 20-nil lead after 20 minutes.

Guildford then got some football and scored three tries of their own in the last 10 minutes of the first half – through winger Cajun Alaalatoa, half Todd Sapienza and centre Dom Murphy – to bring scores back to 20-16 at half time.

The Owls started the second half where they left off at the back end of the first half when five eighth Nautu’a Masima finished off a close range movements under the posts five minutes into the second half to put the Owls in front, before Sapienza dashed 60 metres to score from the next set after the restart to put the Owls in front 28-20.

Wests replied in the 52nd minute when winger Ryan Cane picked up a Guildford grubber to send fullback Christian Yassmin on an 85 metre dash to score and reduce the deficit back to two points.

Guildford continued the touch football nature of the contest when Masima dashed 40 metres through poor defence to score his second try (and 10th major for the season), before interchange player Jaydn Field socred a great solo try from dummy half to push the Owls lead out to 40-26 with 20 minutes left.

Regular Guildford hooker Julian King came back from interchange to seal the match for the Owls with another solo try from dummy half with 12 minutes left.

Kaufusitua had the last word for Wests when he completed his hat trick with five minutes left to complete the final 44-32 scoreline to the Owls.

The Wentworthville Magpies maintained their place in the Shield Top Four when they powered away in the second half to beat the Cabramatta Two Blues 40-24 in their match at Ringrose Park last Sunday.

After Wenty got off to a flyer when winger Timoci Vatubuli scored in just the second minute, the feisty Two Blues showed that they were up for the contest in the first half when five eighth Jay Belgrove replied five minutes later.

Magpies second rower Andrew Pritchard scored his first try in the 23rd minute to extend the home side’s lead, before Cabramatta again responded strongly.

In their best period of the match, winger Jamie Harrison touched down in the corner, before backrower Matt Tomkins scored in the last 90 seconds of the first half to have the Two Blues in front 14-12 at the break after Tom Vella’s conversion.

Given a half time blast by rookie coach Simon Greaves, Wenty came out steaming to start the second half – wresting the lead back with Pritchard’s second try three minutes in before centre Jermaine Mati-Leifi and backrower Nick Toomata scored to complete a burst of three tries in 10 minutes and a 28-14 lead.

Interchange lock Sam McGregor consolidated Wenty’s match winning lead 14 minutes from time when touched down to blow the home side’s lead out to 34-14.

Cabra came back late when half Sam Dumont scored and Harrison collected his second try with five minutes left to raise hopes of a Two Blues miracle, before Wenty winger Emosi Alamoti put the finishing touches on the Magpies win with the last try of the match in the final minute.

Mounties maintained their lead at the top of the Shield table with a ruthless 62-16 thrashing of bottom placed Moorebank at Hammondville Oval last Saturday.

The Mulga gave a sign of things to come when centre Ben Chahoud, fullback turned half Corey Makelim and interchange centre Maile Li all scored to give the visitors a 16-nil lead after just 12 minutes.

Moorebank winger Sepu Ryder got the Rams’ first try in the 15th minute to get the home side on the board – before the visitors clicked up another gear.

Backrower Steve Tavita and winger Leva Li crossed in the space of five minutes for Mounties, before Maile Li completed his double by half time to give Grant Mitchell and Ron Harrison’s men a commanding 34-4 lead at the break.

Second rower Winstone Asotasi and opposite winger Jye Ellul made sure of the two points when they scored inside the first 10 minutes of the second half to blow the Mulga lead out to 46-4.

Moorebank centre Matt Wicks got the Rams’ second try to at least get the home side into double figures, before Mounties again cut loose when Leva Li, Asotasi and Chahoud all completed their doubles to push the visitors’ score past 60. 

Moorebank half Brandon Boumelhem got the last try of the day in the last minute to at least give the Rams the last word.

Defending premiers East Campbelltown returned to the winning form – and the Top Eight – in style with a convincing 36-16 win over Asquith in their match at Wamdina Oval last Sunday.

The Eagles signalled they meant business as soon as the seventh minute when a Brett Lahey cut out pass sent centre Jovani Vatuvei over for the opening try. Pint sized winger Craig Moustakas then helped himself to an early double and the premiers were up 14-nil after 15 minutes.

The Magpies – missing class half Aaron Groom – managed a reply when interchange back Masi Fidow got their first try in the corner before Eagles skipper John Da Silva finished off sustained pressure to score under the posts to get East Campbelltown out to a 20-4 lead.

Leading Shield try scorer Alex Nicholls-O’Neill kept the Magpies in the hunt with his 11th try of the season on the stroke of half time to have the Eagles leading 20-10 at the break.

Hard working Eagles lock Ronny Palumbo kept Asquith at arm’s length when he scored three minutes into the second half, before 2014 Shield Player of the Year Vinny Ngaro again raised Magpies hopes of a comeback with a typical try down the right-hand side with 16 minutes left to again get Asquith back to 26-16.

The Eagles, however, put the game to bed when centre Grant Lahey finished off an Eagles right side movement of their own with 10 minutes left.  Da Silva completed a great captain’s knock when he completed his double in the final minute to complete the Eagles’ win.

Finally, Belrose also found winning ways and a return to the Top Eight with a bruising 34-nil shut out of a battered and undermanned Hills District Bulls at Lionel Watts Reserve last Sunday.

Any chance the Bulls had evaporated when they were hit by a devastating injury toll in the scoreless first 20 minutes.  The visitors lost centre Jake Lennox in just the third tackle of the match with a suspected broken right forearm before losing both props – Ben Mitchell (left shoulder) and Doug Dean (suspected rib cartilages) – by midway through the first half.

With the Bulls reduced to a 14-man rotation and just one fresh reserve, Belrose took full advantage.  Class fullback Christian Bate got the first try in the 24th minute, before he helped set up winger Isaac Treml for his first try seven minutes later.

Bate then backed up a Jake Morrison break up the middle to streak away for his second try four minutes from half time to set up an ominous 18-nil lead at the interval.

Remarkably, Lennox – with his broken arm heavily strapped up and needled – came out and played the second half on the right wing as little more than a passenger to help the undermanned reserves bench.

This inspired the Bulls to keep the first 20 minutes of the second stanza scoreless before class half Nick Ferris – son of former multiple club NRL star Jason – completed a remarkable afternoon personally to help put the Bulls away.

Having played 60 minutes for Concord-Burwood-Glebe in Ron Massey Cup earlier in the day at North Sydney Oval before making the quick dash over the Spit Bridge to arrive at Lionel Watts Reserve by half time, Ferris helped set up Treml’s second try with 20 minutes left to break the Bulls’ spirit.

Bate completed his hat trick three minutes later, before backrower Josh Nicholls burrowed over with 10 minutes left to complete the win.

Mounties and St Marys remain on top with 12 points, followed by Wentworthville on 10. Moorebank remain winless in seven starts at the bottom of the ladder.

A reduced round this weekend sees only three games scheduled – with one game on Saturday and two games on Sunday. 

Cabramatta host East Campbelltown at New Era Stadium on Saturday, while Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles play Belrose at Laybutt Fields on Sunday at 11:15am to start a huge day at the Western Sydney venue.

Asquith host the winless Moorebank in Sunday’s other game at Storey Park at 3pm.  All six other teams enjoy weekend byes.

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