In a stirring performance, the Belrose Eagles took a massive step to making the Sydney Shield Finals series with a gritty come-from-behind 32-22 win over defending Premiers East Campbelltown in the feature match of the round last Sunday at Lionel Watts Reserve.
2015 Sydney Shield Player Of the Year Ben Baker opened proceedings for East Campbelltown with the game’s opening try in just the fourth minute, before Belrose struck back when this season’s leading Shield try scorer Christian Bate posted his 15th try of the season in the 12th minute.
Belrose second rower Cody Abrahams marked his return to the home team’s starting side three minutes later with his try to give Belrose a 12-4 lead after 17 minutes with Andy Layton's second successful conversion.
The try for try nature of the first half continued when East Campbelltown fullback Shaun Connor scored following a Belrose turnover from the restart to bring the deficit back to 12-10 after 20 minutes when he duly converted his own try.
Hardworking second rower Josh Nicholls got his first try to extend the Belrose lead to 16-10 after 28 minutes, before East Campbelltown bench player Ben Jankowski scored a try converted by Connor try late in the first half to level scores at 16-all at half time.
Evergreen East Campbelltown winger Craig Moustakas finished his 14th try of the season to have the premiers take a 22-16 lead after 10 minutes of the second half after Baker added the extras.
As East Campbelltown held their lead into the last 15 minutes, Belrose then worked play forward for Nicholls to score his second try to level scores at 22-all with 10 minutes to play after Layton landed the conversion.
Then, former Peninsula Seagulls winger Richie Goodwin made two matchwinning plays to turn the match in the final ten minutes Belrose’s way.
First, he finished off a backline movement with eight minutes left to give Belrose a 26-22 lead.
Then in a frantic final minute, Goodwin brilliantly intercepted the last pass of an East Campbelltown overlap on his wing that would have levelled scores - then took off on a 55 metre break the other way down his flank.
Two tackles later, Charles Buttrose finished off a sweeping movement on the opposite wing to score and seal the Belrose win. Francis Tui converted after the fulltime bell to round out the 32-22 scoreline.
St Marys held off a spirited Cabramatta for a 42-28 win at New Era Stadium last Saturday to stay entrenched inside the Shield’s Top Four.
After the Saints started well when hooker Peter Nay scored the first try in the sixth minute, Cabramatta winger Jamie Harrison replied six minutes later with the Two Blues’ first try.
The Saints’ attack then cut loose for the rest of the first half to break the match open.
Half Jake Toby scored in the 20th minute, before returning Massey Cup winger Fuimanu Esese got his first try, second rower Antonio Faguuaea scored his try, centre Jesse Abbott posted his first four-pointer, and Nay completed his double to give the Saints a commanding 34-4 lead five minutes from half time.
Cabramatta lock Jacob Kelly got a try back for the Two Blues on the stroke of half time to get the home side to double figures with Pat Dumont’s conversion to have St Marys leading 34-10 at half time.
When Enese and Abbott completed their doubles in the first 10 minutes of the second half, St Marys threatened to turn the match into a rout with a 42-10 lead.
However, the Two Blues did not ‘throw the towel in’ and were rewarded for their persistence with a second half back that netted the home side the last three tries of the match.
Half Joseph Anae and Shield debutant second rower Dan Dewildt scored tries that Dumont converted to get the Two Blues back to 42-22 down with still 20 minutes left for a miracle comeback.
However, St Marys controlled play well enough in the final 20 to secure their comfortable win – although Cabramatta had the last word when skipper Tim McDonald crashed over from close range with three minutes left to give some final respectability at 42-28 when Dumont converted.
The Moorebank Rams posted just their second Sydney Shield win for the season when they came from behind to outfinish a disappointing Hills District Bulls 34-28 at Crestwood Reserve last Sunday.
It appeared ‘business as usual’ for the Bulls as they started the match in blazing fashion.
Makeshift lock Isaac Gorman scored the opening try in the 10th minute, then former Blacktown Workers hooker Jake Attard scored to give the Bulls a 10-nil lead after 20 minutes.
When fullback Hayden McWilliam scored three minutes later for James Horvat to convert, the Bulls were cruising with a 16-nil lead.
Former Kingsgrove Colts utility Daniel Arahu got the Rams on the board with their first try 10 minutes from half time which he duly converted, then lock Lopeti Mafi scored his first try for Arahu to convert and have the Rams back in the contest at only 16-12 down at the break.
Prop Peni Misinale then burst over seven minutes into the second half to give the Rams the lead at 18-16 after Arahu converted, then winger Tom Harvey finished off a Moorebank raid in the corner for Arahu to add the extras from touch to have the Rams leading 24-16 after 10 minutes of the second half.
With their faint finals hopes on the line, the Bulls came back to regain the lead when half Mitch Hyde scored with 17 minutes left and centre Jake Lennox followed suit three minutes later to have the Bulls in front 26-24 heading to the final 10 minutes.
However, the Rams were not to be denied – and stormed home in the closing stages. Mafi completed his double to force the lead to change hands a second time with seven minutes left, before returning hooker Brandon Boumelhem burrowed over from close range with five minutes left for the winning try.
Arahu converted to complete a Rams win that virtually extinguished the Bulls’ finals hopes for the Shield season.
Finally, the Guildford Owls stormed into the Sydney Shield Top Four for the first time this season with a 56-10 thumping of a hapless Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in their postponed Round Four catch up match at McCredie Park last Sunday.
From the time Guildford fullback Jeremy King scored the opening try in the seventh minute, the Owls were always in control to post their second big win over Blacktown in successive weeks – scoring over 50 points on each occasion,
With Guildford prop Austin Dias bagging a close range double in the first half, as well as lock Matt Rickard and winger Les Ngaluafe crossing for tries; the Owls led 28-6 at half time after Blacktown prop Anson Naati scored a try late in the half which skipper Luke Chalkely converted to at least get the Workers Sea Eagles on the board by the break.
The Owls continued on their way in the second half with prop Takai Moeakiola, second rower Chris Saab, centre Cameron Mazzelli, bench player Peni Fainu and centre Ashley Brown all scoring tries to bring up the Guildford half century of points at 56-6.
Blacktown bench player Antonio Soni got a late consolation try to at least get the Workers Sea Eagles to double figures at 56-10 by full time.
Guildford got four competition points – two for the win and two for their scheduled bye – for the weekend, while Blacktown came away with just the two points for their scheduled bye.
Mounties, Wentworthville, Asquith and Western Suburbs all enjoyed non-playing byes over the weekend.
Mounties lead the Shield table on 32 points from St Marys on 30 and Wentworthville 28, with Guildford’s big winning margin and four point weekend seeing the Owls go to 24 points ahead of Asquith (also on 24) on percentages.
East Campbelltown are next on 22, with Belrose and Blacktown Workers on 18 points rounding out the Top Eight ahead of Cabramatta on 16. Moorebank are still on the bottom of the ladder despite their win with their eight points.
This weekend sees another reduced round – starting with Moorebank playing St Marys at Hammondville Oval on Saturday at 3pm.
Sunday’s matches sees Guildford play Mounties at McCredie Park at 1pm, Wentworthville facing Western Suburbs in an all Magpies ‘battle of the birds’ at Ringrose Park at 1pm, and Asquith taking on Belrose in a critical match of the round at Storey Park at 3pm.
At time of this wrap going to press, there was doubt about the East Campbelltown match against Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at Laybutt Fields going ahead with the defending premiers rocked into mourning after the tragic death of their halfback Wayde Dunley last weekend (see story elsewhere on NSWRL.com.au).