Mounties have come out on top in a high-scoring affair at Lottoland, defeating the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 44-30 in a thoroughly entertaining clash on Sunday afternoon.
New Sea Eagles coach Steve Hales had his first loss in charge, but will be proud of his side's effort against the high-flying Mounties, with defensive issues but a fine completion rate of 26 from 28 sets. Halfback Cameron Cullen was one of the stars of the show in a losing side, setting up three tries and scoring an individually-impressive one himself, while opposite number Isaac John was equally prominent in his side's attack. Both Mataele brothers - Mounties' Alofi and Blacktown's Pat - had a good day for the family, each scoring a double in what was a generally high-quality contest, while Kurt Baptiste and Scott Sorensen were also strong for Mounties. A game in which the lead changed hands multiple times - and featured just four errors in total - made for enjoyable viewing in Intrust Super Premiership NSW Round 13.
It would be the Sea Eagles to find the try line first, with some Cameron Cullen magic laying on points for Peter Schuster. As the home side applied pressure to Mounties' line, Cullen cut out three defenders with a classy ball to find his winger - and while the opposition appealed for an obstruction, the play was legal and resulted in the first try of the day. Joey Lussick converted and it was 6-0 in favour of the hosts.
The Sea Eagles' hopes would soon take a blow, however, when Viliame Kaveinga was forced from the field with a corked calf; the fullback would not return again that day. It forced Kelepi Manu back to the custodian role and when the first penalty of the game went the way of the visitors, they made the Blacktown side pay. Dugan would be the man to score for Mounties, as Isaac John beat his former teammates to send the lock flying through a gap. John had no trouble adding the extras to square things up with a quarter of the game gone.
Penalties in quick succession put the Sea Eagles back in an attacking position, with Lussick taking his chance to score his side's second. The no.9 darted from dummy-half, stepping the defence to score, before converting his own try for a 12-6 lead.
The back-and-forth contest continued but in a worrying sign for the Sea Eagles' defence, Mounties would score their second through fullback Dominic Reardon. A fine offload from Scott Sorensen found Reardon in a gaping gap, with a simple conversion levelling scores once again at 12 points apiece.
Right on cue, it was the Sea Ealges to cross next and Cullen would once again be to thank for his side's third try. Breaking Mounties' defence with a good show-and-go and step, the halfback was in again, with Lussick continuing his fine form with the boot to convert the try. It would send the Blacktown side into the sheds with a one-try advantage at half-time.
Mounties wasted little time getting on the front foot in the second half, pressing the Sea Eagles' line - and after an attempted intercept from Johnathan Wright, Alofi Mataele managed to burrow over in the corner. Isaac John missed the first conversion attempt of the day to leave scores at 18-16.
The visitors went back-to-back immediately, with Kurt Baptiste making a line-break inside his own half before offloading to Sorensen; the form back-rower had little trouble in racing away to score and with an attempt from in front, John added the extras.
It was the 49th minute before the Sea Eagles had their first possession of the second half, with plenty of work to do to wrestle back the momentum. That came, of course, via their classy halfback; Cullen put in a perfectly-weighted grubber with Pat Mataele beating Kato Ottio for the ball, scoring under the posts for the home side. Kelepi Manu was successful in his first conversion of the day and it was 24-22.
The Cullen masterclass continued as he did his best for the Sea Eagles, kicking a 40-20 get his side back on the front foot immediately following Mataele's try. When his side got there, he came up with a near-identical play, once again grubbering for Mataele who was deemed to have planted the ball down inside the dead-ball line. Manu's conversion was good again for a 30-22 score line.
The points continued to flow as John, Sorensen and Brent Naden combined for another Mounties try. Naden, who was playing fullback for the visitors in the second half, took a good short ball from Sorensen and despite a big juggle, regained possession to score, with John sneaking the conversion inside the upright to draw his side back within two points.
John was willing to match Cullen in every department and for the second time in the half, Mounties scored in consecutive sets. The halfback's grubber held up in the in-goal and with defenders unable to take the ball, Alofi Mataele planted it down for his second. John's conversion fell just short to leave scores at 32-30.
Baptiste was also strong for Mounties and a short ball from dummy-half set up Sorensen for his second - and his side's third consecutive four-pointer. With John adding the extras it was 38-30 in the visitors' favour - their biggest lead of the day.
The lead would extend for Mounties as the game drew to a close, with a barnstorming run from Mitch Kennedy putting the icing on the cake. The bench forward stepped through the Sea Eagles defence to score, with John converting - resulting in a 44-30 full-time score.
Mounties 44 (S Sorensen 2, A Mataele 2, S Duggan, D Reardon, B Naden, M Kennedy tries; I John 6 goals) def Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 30 (P Mataele 2, P Schuster, J Lussick, C Cullen tries; J Lussick 3, K Manu 2 goals)