HIGHLIGHTS | Sydney Shield Round 19

Two tries from former Gold Coast Titans winger Leva Li has propelled competition leaders Mounties to a thrilling 22-18 win over a gallant Guildford Owls outfit in the Sydney Shield match of the round at McCredie Park last Sunday.

In a seesawing contest between two teams with Top Four aspirations, the Mulga made the most of their chances to just edge out the Owls and keep the competition lead.

In a tough first half, Li scored his first try to give Mounties a 6-nil lead with Maltese international Jye Ellul adding the extras – a try that turned out to be the only score of the first 40 minutes.

The Mulga held their 6-nil lead to the break as both sides were not able to convert the few opportunities that presented themselves for the rest of the first stanza into points.

The young Owls outfit started the second half strongly with two tries in the first 10 minutes to take the lead.

First, centre Ash Brown scored four minutes into the second half, before classy half back Todd Sapienza finished off Guildford’s next attacking set from the restart to score three minutes later.  Sapienza converted both tries to give the Owls a 12-6 lead.

The Mulga then worked into field position 10 minutes later for hooker John Martin to burrow over from acting half to score, before Li brilliantly added his second try four minutes later for Mounties to regain the lead at 16-12 when Ellul added the extras.

Veteran prop Tere Glassie burst over with 12 minutes left, Ellul’s conversion gave Mounties a critical 10 point buffer.

Guildford winger Cajun Alaalatoa gave the Owls a late shot to pull a miracle win out of the fire with two minutes left – which Sapienza converted to bring scores back to 22-18 before the Mulga held on from the restart to complete their tight victory.

The Asquith Magpies moved back into the Top Four at Guildford’s expense when they overcame the Belrose Eagles 32-18 at Storey Park last Sunday in the round’s other feature match.

After Asquith prop Josh Hall opened the scoring in the fourth minute with the games’ first try to give the home side a 6-nil lead with Shae Jarvis’ conversion, the match was an arm wrestle for most of the first half.

Good leadup work from speedy Asquith fullback Jake Pickering led to winger Ari Bou-Sleiman scoring in the 16th minute to extend the Magpies lead to 10-nil, before Belrose enjoyed a wealth of field position and possession for the rest of the half on the back of a 6-3 penalty count in their favour from referee Damien Simes.

However, Belrose could not make the most of their possession and paid the maximum penalty when an Aaron Groom kick in the last minute of the first half was brilliantly fielded by Pickering for the Asquith custodian’s 14th try of the season and a 14-nil Magpies lead at the break.

When Asquith winger Alex Nicholls-O’Neill scored his 14th try for the year 10 minutes into the second half, the Magpies looked in control with a 20-nil lead after Jarvis converted.

Belrose then launched a comeback with tries to prop Francis Tui from close range in the 56th minute and five eighth Teariki Noovao four minutes later.  Shem Grieve converted both tries to reduce the Asquith lead to 20-12 mid way through the second half.

The key moment then came on Belrose’s next attack in the 64th minute.  A Belrose clearing kick on the last tackle was charged down by the Asquith defence, with interchange forward Cameron Yeates getting to the ball to score the try.  Jarvis converted to give the Magpies a 26-12 lead.

Asquith lock Alipate Tani finished another Magpies movement through the middle to put the Magpies out of sight at 32-12 with 13 minutes left, before Belrose hooker Maverick Tweedie burrowed over from dummy half with seven minutes left for the Eagles’ consolation try.

Belrose did take away two competition points from the weekend as they played the match against the Magpies on their third scheduled bye weekend.

Powered by a hat trick from winger Ratu Talemaivanikuva, the Moorebank Rams scored the upset of the Sydney Shield season when they toppled competition high flyers St Marys 30-22 in their postponed Round 1 match at Hammondville Oval last Saturday.

It appeared to be business as usual for the Saints in the early exchanges when winger Fuimanu Enese got his first try in the seventh minute for an early 4-nil St Marys lead.

However, the Rams showed their improved form in recent weeks was genuine by dominating the rest of the first half.

Moorebank five eighth Zac Hetherington scored the home side’s first try in the 16th minute to give the Rams the lead at 6-4 with Kieran Hayman’s conversion, before the flying Talemaivanikuva got his first try four minutes later for a 12-4 lead after Hayman added the extras.

Second rower Jack Gibbons extended the Rams’ lead when he scored 10 minutes from half time for an 18-4 lead with Hayman’s conversion.

Hayman then slotted a penalty goal four minutes later to give the Rams a shock 20-4 lead.

St Marys started a comeback when winger Nick Betar scored on the stroke of half time to get the Saints back to being down only 20-10 at the break after Aiden Glanville converted on the half time siren.

The comeback was on when Saints half Jake Toby scored in the opening set of six tackles to start the second half to cut the Moorebank lead back to 20-16 with Glanville’s converted.

However, a turnover from the restart opened the door for Talemaivanikuva to score his second try from the following set to again give the Rams some breathing space at 26-16 with Hayman’s conversion.

Both sides then went at each other for the next 25 minutes without addition to the scores, before Talemaivanikuva brought up a brilliant hat trick with the winning try with seven minutes left.

Enese completed his double with a late consolation try with four minutes left, but Glanville’s conversion was not enough to stop Moorebank completing back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

With both sides playing their catch up game on each of their third scheduled byes, Moorebank got four competition points from the match, while St Marys came away with two points from the loss.

Playing with heavy hearts, the East Campbelltown Eagles put aside the tragic death of star halfback Wayde Dunley with an emotional 42-16 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at Laybutt Fields, Blacktown last Sunday.

Wearing black armbands in their first match since Dunley’s passing, winger Craig Moustakas got the Eagles on the board with his first try in the third minute for and early 6-nil lead with Ben Baker’s conversion.

Blacktown had a lot to play for themselves in trying to keep their place in the Top Eight – and struck back five minutes later with Amanaki Manu’s try five minutes later to reduce the East Campbelltown lead to 6-4.

After a tight and scoreless 15 minutes, the Eagles then knuckled down to their task and controlled the rest of the first half.

Centre Amanono Tovio scored in the 25th minute to set the visitors on their way for the rest of the half, before hooker John Da Silva worked over from acting half seven minutes later, and Baker nabbed his first try on the stroke of half time.

Baker – resuming the goal kicking duties – converted all three tries to give the Eagles a commanding 24-4 lead at the break.

Eagles half Chris Standing scored with the Eagles’ first meaningful attack of the second half to put the Eagles out of sight at 30-4, before Baker added a second try midway through the second half as the Eagles threatened to rack up a massive score at 36-4 with Baker’s sixth successful conversion.

With the Eagles’ minds naturally thinking about their lost mate Dunley after the win was secured, Blacktown got two late tries in the space of three minutes from halves Debraska Rikiriki and Kieran Wyld to get the scores back to 36-16 after Amanaki and Kelepi Manu added conversions to each try respectively.

Fittingly for the memory of their lost halfback, the Eagles had the last word when Moustakas bookended the match with his second try – to take the winger to the top of the Shield tryscorer’s list with 16 for the season – in the final minute.

Baker added the extras after the final bell to give the 2015 Shield Player Of The Year a perfect seven goals from seven attempts and a personal tally of 22 points in closing out result.

Finally, Wentworthville had to work hard to overcome a pesky Western Suburbs 42-28 in the all-Magpies ‘battle of the birds’ 42-28 in their match at Ringrose Park last Sunday.

Wentworthville looked to be worthy favourites for the contest when second rower Dave Sisifa got his first try in the just the second minute.  Brendon Newton’s conversion gave Wenty a 6-nil lead.

Wests replied six minutes later when a Nathan Tui break saw the fullback send Blake Higgins away for the try to level scores at 6-all after Kelsey Coakes added the extras.

Powerful centre Josese Rika then crashed over for his first try in the 16th minute to regain the lead for Wenty, before opposite centre Jermaine Mati-Leifi finished off a backline movement to extend the lead to 18-6.

A chip and regather from Higgins with three minutes left in the half saw the half link up with Junior Mapesone before the last pass was sent to Lucas Castle who scored near the posts to bring the Wenty lead back to 18-12 at the break with Coakes’ conversion.

Another Higgins break from Wests first possession of the second half saw a link up with Jack Mitchell before Joe Kaufusitua dashed away for the try to bring scores back to 18-16.

Wenty then kept Wests at arms length when Rika completed his double in the 52nd minute, before five eighth KJ MacKenzie got to a kick in behind the Wests defence six minutes later to give the home side a 28-16 lead.

However, Wests refused to lie down and when Justin Frain got to a Josh Bermingham grubber first with 16 minutes left, the match was still alive at 28-22 after Coakes added the conversion for the visitors.

Sisifa followed up a long break from winger Hala Katoa to score on the next tackle four minutes later to again give Wenty a 12 point buffer.

Wests then raised another effort after the home side dropped the ball from the restart – with prop Hans Taala barging over under the posts to again reduce the Wenty lead to six points for one last time.

Wenty prop Solomone Lasalo then crashed over himself from a Wests error for minutes later to give the home side a 40-28 lead when Newton converted.

Newton then finally put the game to bed for Wenty when he slotted a penalty goal in the last minute after Wests were caught offside at a goal line drop out to close out the 42-28 win.

Cabramatta and the Hills District Bulls enjoyed non-playing byes.

With all catch up matched now played and all teams having now received their three byes for the season, Mounties (34), St Marys (32) and Wentwortvhille (30) are entrenched in the top three places.

Asquith’s win sees them move to fourth spot on 26 points ahead of Guildford and East Campbelltown on 24 points each.  Belrose are on 20 with Cabramatta’s bye seeing them move into the Top Eight on 18 points ahead of Blacktown Workers (also on 18) on percentages.

Moorebank’s bonus four points sees them join Wests at the bottom of the table on 12 points.

The Shield competition returns to full rounds for the rest of the regular season this weekend with three games on Saturday and three games on Sunday.

The Mounties clash with East Campbelltown at Aubrey Keech Reserve on Saturday and the St Marys meeting with Belrose at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Sunday are the pick of the weekend’s round.

The Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield develop Rugby League talent in NSW – click here for the latest on these open-age NSWRL competitions.