2016 Sydney Shield Grand Finalists Mounties moved to a sole leadership of the competition table with a tough – and at times controversial – 26-16 win over the Asquith Magpies in the ‘match of the round’ at Storey Park last Sunday.
On what proved to be a vexatious afternoon for referee Darren Burtenshaw, Mounties took their chances when they mattered to overcome a committed Magpies outfit in their most hard earned win of the season.
When veteran Mounties skipper Tere Glassie eased over to get the game’s first try in the fourth minute it appeared to be business as usual for the visitors.
However a freshened up Asquith – playing their first match for three weeks – were up for the contest when a deft Aaron Groom grubber in behind the defence saw centre Adam Kalcina score in the 15th minute to level the scores at six apiece.
The controversy then began six minutes later when referee Burtenshaw sent Asquith hooker Shae Jarvis to the sin bin for repeated infringements – the first of three players to eventually be sat down for 10 minutes in what was becoming a niggly, grinding affair.
Remarkably, Asquith took the lead whilst reduced to 12 men when another perfect Groom kick found winger Jeremy Marshall in the corner to score and give Asquith a 10-6 lead.
As soon as Jarvis returned from the bin, Asquith interchange forward Phil Crosby became the second player to be banished by Burtenshaw – in just his second minute on the field as a replacement after playing a full game in the earlier Northern Conference A Grade fixture – for being deliberately offside at marker.
The Magpies could not hold out for a second time in defence with 12 men and giant winger Leva Li crossed wide out in the corner from the penalty set after Crosby’s sin binning.
Maltese international Jye Ellul converted from touch to give Mounties a 12-10 lead at the break.
When Mounties fullback Corey Makelim scored his first try before Crosby came back from the bin at the start of the second half to extend the visitors’ lead to six points, things looked ominous for Asquith.
Then it was the Mulga’s turn to fall foul of Burtenshaw – after giving away four successive penalties in the space of five minutes on their own goal line as Asquith mounted their challenge, a fifth straight penalty in six minutes saw five eighth Zeik Foster become the third player sin binned.
Asquith then took advantage of the 12 man defence when Groom fed off a Vinny Ngaro pass to muscle over for the try. Ngaro converted to level scores again at 16-all with 20 minutes to play.
Mounties then held on until Foster returned from the bin before upping the ante again in defence – forcing two critical errors from Marshall to set up field position.
From those errors, Leva Li got his second try with just under 15 minutes left to give Mounties the lead again at 20-16.
The visitors then applied the killer blow with 90 seconds left when a clever Foster centering kick on the last tackle found Makelim free to score his second try under the posts – clinching the win and sole competition lead for the Mulga.
St Marys lost joint leadership of the Shield table when a committed Wentworthville Magpies ground out a solid 26-8 win over the Saints at Ringrose Park last Sunday.
In a tight first half, tries from Wenty winger Rameses Tuipulotu and Saints backrower Latu Fifita ensured that scores were locked up at four points each at the break.
In their best performance of the season so far, Wenty centre KJ MacKenzie broke the deadlock for the Magpies seven minutes into the second half with his try.
With the Magpies defence scrambling at one end and forcing the Saints into error at the other, Wenty built the lead fullback James Goring scored in the 54th minute to extend the lead to 14-4.
Wide running backrower Jack Miller then scored the critical try with 15 minutes left to give Wenty what proved to be a match winning 20-4 lead.
Saints centre Robert Vai finally broke the shackles with 10 minutes left when he scored his second try to give the visitors some hope at 20-8.
Makeshift Wenty lock Rhys Armstrong then scored the sealer with three minutes left to nail down a well deserved two competition points – and second spot on the Shield ladder on percentage – for the Magpies.
In the round’s most stunning result, the Blacktown Workers’ Sea Eagles stormed back into the Top Four with a 44-4 thumping of the Hills District Bulls at Laybutt Fields last Sunday.
Much maligned and forced to call on players from outside the original squad in recent weeks after 11 players left the club in the wake of the dismissal of former Intrust Super Premiership coach Pat Weisner, the new look Workers Sea Eagles outfit clicked in style to snap their three game losing streak.
The win was set up by an opening blast of four tries in the first half hour to establish a 22-nil lead – with winger Daniel Cassone, new hooker Treymaine Brown, centre Phoenix Vaiotu and backrower Cameron Davis all crossing the stripe.
Hooker Isaac Gorman got the Bulls’ only try of the match to get the visitors on the board at 22-4 down at half time.
With 40 year old ex NRL prop Hutch Maiava leading the way up front on his way to playing in both Shield and Ron Massey Cup on the same day in his second week back from retirement, Blacktown went on with the job in the second half after a tight first 15 minutes where both sides had chances.
Davis blew the game open with his second and third tries in three minutes to complete his hat trick and virtually decide the result at 32-4 with 20 minutes left.
Cassone got a second try to make sure of the two points with 15 minutes left, with fullback Jaydan Wharerau putting the icing on the cake in the final minute with his try to complete the 40 point winning margin.
A brilliant second half hat trick from 2015 Player of the Year Ben Baker – the fourth hat trick for the round – ensured that East Campbelltown’s form resurgence continued with their 34-14 win over Guildford at Waminda Oval last Sunday.
The Owls got off to a blazing start with early tries to centre Savani Latu and winger Cajun Alaalatoa and an 8-nil lead after 12 minutes.
Then the defending premiers got to work in working their way to the front with tries to five eighth Brett Lahey and full back Sean Connor to earn a 12-8 half time lead after Connor converted both tries.
After an early arm wrestle for the first 15 minutes of the second half, the class of Baker – playing in the unaccustomed role of centre – came to the fore.
Baker’s first try in the 55th minute extended the Eagles’ lead, before interchange backrower Mason Talolua finished off lead up work 10 minutes later that included Baker to extend the lead to 22-8.
Baker’s second try with 10 minutes left broke the Guildford resistance as Connor’s conversion blew the lead out to 20 points.
Tyrone Shelley got a consolation try for Guildford with four minutes left, before Baker completed his hat trick in the final minute to finish the victory.
Belrose continued their charge towards a Top Four spot with a frenetic 34-18 win over a game Western Suburbs at Lionel Watts Reserve last Sunday.
In a match where referee Phil Sung had to work almost as hard as his colleague Burtenshaw did across at Storey Park, the sin bin was also used as Wests finished the match with 11 men.
After receiving an early penalty, Belrose got the first try when hulking prop Frances Tui muscled over from close range in the fourth minute.
Class fullback Christian Bate then finished off a neat backline movement to extend the lead to 10-nil in the ninth minute with his 12th try of the season.
Wests came back hard to unsettle the Eagles – culminating with fullback Hosea Leuea scoring in the 20th minute to get the Magpies on the board.
Bate’s second try – and 13th of the season to move to the top of the Shield try scorer’s list – extended the Belrose lead to 16-4 four minutes later, before the young Magpies had their best period of the match.
Lock Ben Powers fed off a Jake Scott pass to score, then centre Joe Kaufusitua finished a short side move on the left to give Wests a surprise 18-16 lead at half time after Leuea added the extras.
A Belrose chargedown at the start of the second half led to interchange hooker Maverick Tweedie burrowed over from dummy half to regain the lead for the Eagles.
An old fashioned Belrose ‘big hit’ in defence forced a Wests error 12 minutes into the second half that was converted into a try to winger Richie Goodwin and a 26-18 lead.
With both sides striving for the breakthrough over the next 20 minutes without success, the niggle steadily increased at the ruck – eventually leading to referee Sung sending Wests prop Chris Coleman to the sin bin for striking with eight minutes left.
Belrose sealed the two points when from the ensuing penalty, backrower Cody Abrahams scored the match sealing try wide out against the tiring 12 man Wests defence for 30-18.
The frustration became too much for interchange player Sinapati Solia who joined Coleman in the sin bin for dissent after the Abrahams try – paving the way for Belrose centre Conor Roxburgh to finish the game off for the Eagles when he charged over on the wide left against the 11 man Wests defence in the last minute.
Finally, Cabramatta borke back into the Shield Top Eight with a 36-22 win over Moorebank at Hammondville Oval last Saturday.
With Moorebank getting numbers back to put a team on the field after forfeiting to Asquith a fortnight ago, the Rams caught the Two Blues by surprise after Cabra centre Sione Kaivelata scored the first try in the third minute.
The Rams came back hard with tries to centre Matt Wicks, half Zac Hetherington and winger Richard Irwin to move out to a shock 16-4 lead after 27 minutes.
Cabramatta worked their way back with tries from lock Treyvon Leuluai and five eighth Jay Belgrove late in the first half to half to cut the Rams lead back to 16-14 at the break.
The Two Blues then stepped up a gear at the start of the second half – winger Lautusi Mailei completed a double in the space of 10 minutes while Leuluai got a second try to turn the half time deficit to a commanding 28-16 lead.
Cabra backrower Siupeli Huihahau made sure of the win when he burst through the tiring Rams defence to score with 15 minutes left and a 16 point lead.
Irwin got his second try with five minutes left to give the Rams a faint hope, before opposite Cabra winger Jayden Mahara finished off the Two Blues’ win when he scored in the corner with two minutes left.
Mounties lead the competition on 18 points, two points ahead of Wentworthville and St Marys on 16. Moorebank are still last with just the two competition points – still winless after 10 games.
A full round is set down for this weekend with Cabramatta hosting Asquith in the sole Saturday game at New Era Stadium to start the round.
The other five games are all on Sunday – with the Mounties clash with Blacktown Workers at Laybutt Fields, the East Campbelltown match with St Marys at Wamind Oval and the Belrose game against Wentworthville at Lionel Watts the pick of the action.