The Auburn Warriors kept their Ron Massey Cup finals hopes alive with a stunning upset 22-10 win over the Hills District Bulls in the feature match of the round at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.
In easily their best performance of the season to date, the Warriors showed they meant business when winger Abraham El-Zakhem finished the visitors’ opening attack with the first try in just the third minute.
Former Blacktown Workers and Manly half Manaia Rudolph converted to give the Warriors an early 6-nil lead.
The Bulls replied in the 15th minute when winger Danyon Barnes scored the home side’s first try in the corner.
In a tight first half with opportunities at a premium, Rudolph slotted a penalty goal seven minutes from half time to extend the Warriors lead to 8-4, before veteran Bulls prop Mick Hawkings crashed over from close range to score in the shadows of half time.
Ron Massey Cup Representative Chad O’Donnell converted to give the Bulls a 10-8 half time lead.
The grinding arm wrestle continued scoreless into the second half until lock Henry Ah Sam finished off Warriors pressure to score 16 minutes into the second half to regain a 14-10 lead for the visitors with Rudolph’s conversion.
After both sides had chances into the last 15 minutes until Rudolph scored what turned out to be the match winning try with 14 minutes left. He converted his own try to extend the Warriors lead to 20-10.
Rudolph then landed a second penalty goal with five minutes left to seal the 22-10 win - completing a perfect five from five with the boot and a personal tally of 14 points in a man of the match performance.
Competition leaders St Marys had to work extremely hard to overcome a game Cabramatta 34-30 in their match at New Era Stadium last Saturday night to stay on top of the Cup ladder.
Far from being overawed, the Two Blues started the match on fire with two brilliant tries to centre Isaac Montgomery to give Cabramatta an early 8-nil after just eight minutes.
Saints prop Tom Romer and bench player Tom Eisenhuth got replying tries to give the Saints the lead at 12-8 after Aiden Glanville converted both tries, before Two Blues centre Tyla Tamou levelled scores at 12-all after 20 minutes with the Two Blues’ third try.
As both sides went try for try for the rest of the first half, Saints winger John Tuliatu scored his first try to regain the lead for the visitors before Cabramatta second rower Tenisio Ahovelo replied with the Two Blues fourth try wide out to bring the deficit back to 18-16.
Eisenhuth completed his double on the stroke of half time to give St Marys a 22-16 lead at the break.
After a tight, scoreless opening to the second half, the Two Blues struck with Montgomery bringing up his hat trick with 20 minutes left, before bench player Sione Kaivelata put Cabramatta back in front with his try three minutes later – which Brendan Cox finally converted to give the home side a 26-22 lead.
However, just as Cabramatta were entertaining thoughts of the upset of the season, St Marys came back again when bench forward Jamie Hill burst over with 12 minutes left.
Glanville’s conversion allowed the Saints to regain the lead for a second time at 28-26 with 10 minutes to play.
Tuliatu scored his second try to give the Saints a decisive 34-26 lead with seven minutes left after Glanville landed his fifth goal from six attempts – in stark contrast to Cox’s poor night with the boot by comparison in kicking just one goal from seven attempts in the absence of regular kicker and Massey Cup Representative fullback Don Thompson to injury.
Montgomery had the final word for Cabramatta with a remarkable fourth try – and the Two Blues’ seventh try to St Marys’ six – with three minutes left to bridge the gap back to 34-30 after Cox missed one last conversion.
The Saints then held on in the closing stages to secure – with great relief – their seventh straight Massey Cup win.
Finally, the Guildford Owls moved to within striking distance of the Top Four with a 62-12 thrashing of the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in their postponed Round Four match at McCredie Park last Sunday.
With Shane Hunt and Matt Ryan scoring early tries to set up an early 10-nil lead, things got from bad to worse for Blacktown when centre Ben Fritz was sent to the sin bin by referee Jake Sutherland for allegedly swearing at the referee in the aftermath of Ryan’s try in just the 12th minute.
In Fritz’s absence plus first half injuries that reduced Blacktown to a two man bench and 15 man rotation, Guildford ran riot to set up a commanding 34-nil half time lead on the back of further first half tries to Cameron Eyles, Josh Camroux, Jayden Wheelhouse and Eden Syme. Camroux converted landed five conversions from six attempts by the interval.
Ryan and Hunt completed their doubles early in the second half to continue the rout, before George Lolo and Amanaki Manu got Blacktown on the board with their two tries which were both converted by Kelepi Manu.
Hunt completed his hat trick for the Owls before tries in the closing stages by Mitch Achurch and Tyrone Shelley saw the Owls pass the 60 point mark to complete the thumping win.
Guildford got four competition points on the day – two for the win and two for their scheduled bye, while Blacktown came away with two points for their scheduled bye.
Mounties, Wentworthville, Concord-Burwood-Glebe and Western Suburbs also enjoyed non-playing byes.
St Marys and Wentworthville share the lead on 32 points and have opened up a six point gap on the Bulls on 26, with Mounties and Blacktown Workers sharing fourth spot on 24. Guildford are next on 23 with Concord-Burwood-Glebe on 22.
The Auburn Warriors are still sitting inside the Top Eight after their win on 18, with Wests on 17 and Cabramatta last on 14 points – but still a chance to sneak into the last finals berth.
This weekend sees another reduced round of three games – starting on Saturday at 2pm when the Auburn Warriors play their catch up washed out Round One game against St Marys at Lidcombe Oval.
Sunday’s two games – both at 3pm – sees Wentworthville play Western Suburbs in an all Magpies ‘battle of the birds’ at Ringrose Park, and Guildford take on Mounties at McCredie Park.