WEEK THAT WAS | Sydney Shield Round 17

The Asquith Magpies stayed in the Sydney Shield Top Four with a 38-18 win over the Wentworthville Magpies in tan entertaining ‘battle of the birds’ feature match of the round at Storey Park last Sunday.

Wenty started the stronger when makeshift backrower Jack Miller dashed 30 metres to score the opening try in just the second minute of the match.

2014 Shield Player Of the Year Vinny Ngaro then laid on a superb pass on the chest of Asquith winger Alex Nicholls-O’Neill for his 13th try of the season five minutes later for the home side’s reply.

After both sides settled into the match, Wentworthville lock Tom Field got the visitors’ second try through some more lax Asquith defence from close range to extend the visitors’ lead to 12-4 after 17 minutes.

Ngaro and fellow Sydney Shield Player Of the Year Jake Pickering then took control of the rest of the first half. 

Ngaro barged over from close range down his favoured right side in the 22nd and 34th minutes for a double to give Asquith the lead, before Pickering dummied superbly down the right edge for a brilliant individual try – his first – on the stroke of half time to give the home side a handy 22-12 lead at the break.

The second half became an arm wrestle with both sides having chances before Asquith extended their lead with a couple of Shae Jarvis penalty goals midway through the half.

The second penalty goal in the 60th minute was the match’s turning point – when Wenty half Brendan Newton was controversially penalised for being offside by referee Jake Sutherland as he snaffled an intercept and broke clear with no defender in front of him. 

Jarvis’s accurate conversion of the penalty made the score 26-12 when it could have been a six point lead the other way.

Wentworthville dominated the next 10 minutes for no result and were made to pay for their missed opportunites when Pickering linked up with Nicholls-O’Neill down the right side for his second try – and 13thfor the season – with nine minutes to play.

Josh Minhinnick completed a clever Newton cross kick to finally get Wenty on the board with his 11th try in Sydney.Shield this season, before Jarvis put the icing on the Asquith cake when he burrowed over from dummy half to score with two minutes left and give him a personal tally of 18 points with seven goals to go with his try.

In stark contrast to the way most Sydney Shield games have been played in recent years. Mounties ground out a tough 14-nil shut out win over Belrose in the other feature match of the round at Lionel Watts Reserve last Saturday Night.

Tough intensity in willing defence and lost opportunities in attack were the order of the night in a scoreless first half slugfest – the first time a scoreless half has been played in any NSWRL Senior Competition this year.

John Martin in the 10th minute for Mounties and Anthony Raheb late in the half for Mounties came closest to scoring in the first period.

Just as those on hand started to ponder an historic scoreless game as the first 10 minutes of the second half passed by for no result, the Mulga finally broke the stalemate when half Vince Repipi burst over from close range to get the night’s opening score 14 minutes into the second half.

Former Cabramatta, Newtown and Randwick Rugby Union winger Chris Taripo converted and landed a penalty goal with 20 minutes left to extend the Mulga lead to 8-nil.

After Raheb blew another opportunity for the Eagles with 10 minutes left, Mounties secured the two competition points when prop Matt Whitehouse charged over with seven minutes left for the match winning try.

Taripo’s conversion closed out the bruising 14-nil win to keep the Mulga on top of the Shield Table.

Cabramatta moved to the edge of the Top Eight with a 40-20 win over Western Suburbs in last Saturday’s other game at New Era Stadium.

After getting a penalty in the opening set from the kickoff to set up field position, Cabramatta centre Jay Belgrove sliced through down the left for the first try in the second minute.

Wests replied 10 minutes later when quick hands and a flick pass down the right saw winger Joe Kaufusitua score in the corner.

Both sides then went try for try for the next 10 minutes.

First, a Wests turnover saw Belgrove capitalise to complete an early double for the Two Blues, before Wests second rower Lucas Castle finished off a chain passing movement and a Blake Higgins kick to score a spectacular try to level scores at 10-all.

Cabramatta then cut loose in attack to virtually secure the two points by half time.

Winger Jamie Harrison finished off a sweeping movement to score wide out, before half Ray Alo slalomed through the Wests defence from close range to extend the Two Blues lead out to 20-10.

Cabramatta then scored two tries from kicks in the closing stages of the half – through makeshift fullback Brendan Cox from an in goal grubber and winger Lachie Hughes from a pinpoint cross field kick by Cox – to give the Two Blues a commanding 28-10 half time lead.

Wests came out fired up to start the second half and were rewarded for their dominance when Higgins pounced from a Cabra error in tidying up another pin point kick to score.

Cabramatta held tough in the face of further concerted Wests attack that followed for the bulk of the second stanza, and came up with the ultimate response when Hughes got his second try with 15 minutes left when the Two Blues finally got some football.

Harrison executed a one on one strip with just on 10 minutes left to score his second try to secure the win for Cabramatta.  Ryan Cane scored a consolation try for Wests with four minutes left from another Higgins kick.

The Guildford Owls moved to within striking distance of a Top Four place with a thumping 52-16 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at Laybutt Fields, Blacktown last Sunday.

Blacktown continued on from their ‘miracle’ win over Asquith the previous week when backrower Ioane Ioane scored in the fourth minute, before centre Skippy Lipano doubled the lead to 12-nil with his try down the left nine minutes later.

Guildford half Todd Sapienza gave notice of what was to come with his first brilliant try in the 23rd minute, before Blacktown winger Peter Scanlan finished off a left side raid in the corner seven minutes from half time to give the home side a handy 16-6 lead at the break.

With Sapienza pulling the strings beautifully, Guildford blew Blacktown away with a remarkable 46 unanswered points and eight unanswered tries in the second half.

Makeshift lock Tyrone Shelley started the second half rout with his try in the first Guildford attack of the second half.

Winger Jeremy King and centre Cameron Mazzelli followed suit soon afterwards with tries down the left edge, before centre Nick Okladnikov got his the Owls’ fourth try in 11 minutes to be in control at 30-16.

With the bit between the teeth and the Blacktown defence shellshocked, Guildford made sure of no miracle comebacks when Sapienza capped a fine game with his second try with 15 minutes left.

Five eighth Jaydn Field crossed for his try with 12 minutes left, before fullback Cameron Eyles scored with 10 minutes left to give Sapienza a personal tally of 24 points when he landed his eighth conversion to go with his two tries.

Prop Taki Moeakiola put the icing on the Guildford cake when he barged over in the last minute to bring up the Owls’ half century of points.

A new look St Marys Saints had to work extremely hard to finally overcome a game Hills District Bulls 23-16 in the match at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.

Despite having to make a host of changes after four regulars were moved up to Ron Massey Cup, it appeared it would be business as usual for the Saints when backrower Jak Cannell got the opening try in the seventh minute.

However – with their Top Eight hopes on the line – the Bulls had more intensity than in recent games, and were rewarded when centre Blake McDermott got a replying try in the 11th minute and prop Jacob Esau burst over four minutes later for the Bulls’ second try.

Bulls half converted James Horvat converted Esau’s try and slotted a penalty goal on the stroke of half time to give the Bulls a deserved 12-4 lead at the break after a tight first half.

Saints centre Jesse Jackson scored down the right early in the second half to get the visitors back to 12-10 when Jake Toby converted to set up a thrilling arm wrestle for the rest of the game.

The Saints were slowly working their way on top and Toby scored a superb try midway through the second half to regain the lead for St Marys at 16-12 with his second conversion from three attempts.

Saints hooker Cody Smith burrowed over from dummy half with 12 minutes left to extend the visitors’ lead to 22-12 when Toby converted, but the Bulls were not done yet and when Horvat scored wide out with eight minutes left, the match was still in the balance at 22-16.

Smith snapped a field goal with three minutes left to finally secure the win for the relieved Saints – moving Luke Swain’s charges to outright second spot on the Shield ladder.

Finally, defending premiers East Campbelltown got an almighty fright before a hat trick of tries from 2015 Shield Player Of the Year Ben Baker made sure the Eagles came away from bottom placed Moorebank to win 38-18 at Hammondville Oval last Sunday.

Carrying the good form over from their close tussle with Belrose the previous week, the Rams started the match on fire when fullback Blake Clayton scored the first try in the opening 90 seconds.

Baker got a replying try for East Campbeltown in the 19th minute, before the Rams played close to their best football of the season to serve it up to the defending premiers.

Lock Kayne Kalache scored in the 25th minute, and winger Mutu Stanley finished off a neat left side play in the corner to give the Rams a shock 18-4 lead after half an hour when returning half Kieran Hayman landed his third conversion.

East Campbelltown centre Theo Leato scored wide out to have the Eagles down only 18-8 at half time.

The defending premiers – in a repeat of the earlier meeting during the year at Belmore Sports Ground – then wore down the tiring Moorebank defence in the second half.

Baker got his second try eight minutes into the second half, before pint sized winger Craig Moustakas got his first try three minutes later to bring the Eagles back to 18-16.

Second rower Adam Soultan finally put the Eagles in front with his try midway through the second half with Sean Connor’s first successful conversion from five attempts giving the Eagles a 22-18 lead.

Spent from their earlier efforts, Moorebank had no answer in the last 20 minutes as Baker completed his hat trick of tries and Connor scored with 10 minutes left to secure the win at 34-18 with his third conversion. 

Moustakas scored his 13th try of the season – and a double on the day – to round out the 38-18 win with five minutes to play.

Mounties lead the Shield on 30 points from St Marys on 28 and Wentworthville on 26, with Asquith clinging to fourth spot ahead of East Campbelltown on percentages (22 points each)

Guildford are on 20 points with a chance to sneak into the Top Four, with Belrose, Blacktown Workers and Cabramatta all locked on 16 points in a battle for the last spots in the Top Eight.  Moorebank are still on the bottom of the ladder with their six points.

This weekend sees another reduced round of matches – starting with the Cabramatta clash with St Marys at New Era Stadium on Saturday.

Sunday sees three games scheduled – with the Bulls playing Moorebank at Crestwood Reserve, Belrose playing East Campbelltown at Lionel Watts Reserve, and Guildford playing Blacktown Workers at McCredie Park in a re-scheduled Round Four match that was washed out earlier in the season.