A second try from winger Chris Centrone and conversion to Josh Mantellato with five minutes left has ensured that the Wyong Roos stay on top of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW table with a 22-20 win over Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve this afternoon.
In a high-intensity contest, the understrength Roos outift – with six players missing from the original starting line-up for various reasons – withstood a blazing Mounties start to secure their win.
After a tight opening period, Mounties made a break in the ninth minute through hooker Kurt Baptiste and lock Sam Duggan to set up field position. Going down the right two tackles later, half Isaac John grubber kicked for winger Kato Ottio to score the opening try.
The most dramatic moment of the match followed on the next set from the restart when centre Brent Naden burst through the Roos defence down the left and dashed 70 metres to cross the goal-line under the posts.
In a great display of never-say-die chasing, Wyong winger Centrone came from the clouds to knock the ball out of Naden’s hands as the Mounties centre was attempting to ground the ball for the try – a play that would prove critical.
A crisp left-side backline movement by Mounties in the 18th minute put Duggan into a hole, who linked up with Naden who made no mistake to ground the ball his second in goal visit to give Mounties an 8-0 lead.
The game then settled into what became a cracking contest as Wyong worked their way back into the game. A 32nd-minute mid-field bomb from Roos stand-in half Kauri Aupouri glanced off the head of Mounties winger Eddie Aiono as he came out to field the kick.
The glancing ricochet bounced up for Roos winger Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck who raced 25 metres to the corner to score the visitor’s first try.
Four minutes from the break, Roos centre Matt Ikuvalu snaffled an intercept and burst 65 metres up the middle of the field. Three tackles later Wyong lock Justin Toomey-White barged over near the posts from close range. Former Newcastle Knight and Hull Kingston Rovers centre Josh Mantellato converted in his re-call to the Roos line-up to give the visitors a 10-8 lead at the break.
Wyong extended their lead in with their first attack of the second half when Aupouri ran the ball down the blind side left on the last with a long cut out pass to Centrone who stepped infield past two defenders and passed back to Aupouri to score. Mantellato’s conversion gave the Roos a 16-8 lead.
Mounties then worked their way back into field position after a penalty and repeat set eight minutes into the second half for former Canberra Raiders hooker Glen Buttriss to pirouette over from dummy-half untouched. Isaac John landed his first conversion of the day to reduce the deficit to 16-14.
After stand-in Wyong fullback Luke Dolbel dropped a high bomb seven minutes later, Mounties took full advantage from the scrum and follow-up penalty when a spread to the left saw Naden cross for his second try. John again converted to give the Mulga a 20-16 lead.
Both sides then had their chances the final 20 minutes – with Wyong interchange forward Poasa Faamausili and Buttriss both dropping the ball over the goal-line with tries on – before the match-winning try with five minutes left.
Again running the ball on the last tackle after a penalty gave the Roos field position, another Aupouri cut out pass down the left found Centrone who tiptoed down the touchline to beat the flimsy Mounties cover to score – and importantly ran around 20 metres towards the uprights to score after crossing the goal line to improve the position for his goal kicker.
Mantellato made no mistake from the improved position to give the Roos their 22-20 lead.
Wyong held on the frantic closing minutes as Mounties had two last sets in possession that came to no avail, to score a win that could mean a great deal for future meetings with greater stakes on offer between the two sides later in the season.
Both sides play their next matches next Sunday against opponents coming off byes – Mounties travel to Lottoland at Brookvale to play the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles, while the Roos travel to Ringrose Park to take on the Wentworthville Magpies.
Wyong Roos 22 (J Tuivasa-Sheck, J Toomey-White, K Aupouri, C Centrone tries; J Mantellato 3 goals) def Mounties 20 (B Naden 2, K Ottio, G Buttriss tries; I John 2 goals)