A Charlie Faingaa try and Kurt Aldridge conversion in the last 90 seconds gave the Concord-Burwood-Glebe Wolves an upset 30-28 win over Ron Massey Cup competition leaders St Marys at St Marys Leagues Stadium last Sunday.
In a match that see-sawed throughout, the Saints were unable to shake off the Wolves as the match went try-for-try for the full 80 minutes.
Star half Adrian Davis got the Saints off to a good start with the opening try - which converted himself to bring up his 100 points for the season in the 10th minute for a 6-nil St Marys lead.
The Wolves showed they were not overawed by playing the leaders – despite being without coach Nyke Aaron Zammit serving the second game of his two-match suspension – and replied with winger Sami Latu’s first try four minutes later, before centre Ray Lesoa scored in the 18th minute for Aldridge to convert and give the visitors a 12-6 lead.
The Saints then came back when centre Jesse Jackson finished off good lead-up play to score in the 23rd minute to level scores at 12-all with Davis’ conversion.
Fresh from leading the Pacific Islands Students’ outfit in the Universities World Cup Final the previous Sunday, blockbusting backrower John Faiumu burst over for his first try 10 minutes from half time to put the Saints back in front 18-12 when Davis added the extras.
The Wolves then replied again in kind classy fullback Latrell Schaumkel scored six minutes from half time. Aldridge converted to leave the match locked up at 18-all at the break.
The first 20 minutes of the second half became an arm wrestle as both sides worked to gain an advantage. The Saints got to the lead for a second time when bench prop Veta Lilomaiava crashed over with 20 minutes left to give St Marys a 24-18 lead with Davis’ conversion.
The Wolves then worked their way forward from a turnover for Latu to complete his double with 15 minutes left. Aldridge converted from wide out to level scores again at 24-all.
The Saints looked to have finally gained the upper hand when Faiumu barged over for his second try wide out with four minutes left to give the Saints a 28-24 lead. Critically, Davis’ conversion just missed.
That was even more critical when the Saints turned the ball over again from the restart. From the Wolves’ last effective attacking set of the match, Faingaa – who started the year at Blacktown Workers – charged over from close range to score with under 90 seconds left.
Aldridge – another who started the year at Blacktown – converted to put the Wolves in front at 30-28 whilst completing a perfect five from five with the boot.
The Wolves then held on from the short restart to send the Saints to their second straight loss for the first time this season – and give caretaker co-coaches Charbel Achmar and Mick Habib a perfect record of two wins from two games in Zammit’s absence.
In another surprise, the Guildford Owls marked their intentions to be a major Finals player with a bruising 10-8 win over the Hills District Bulls at McCredie Park last Sunday.
In a typically tough and uncompromising battle through the middle, the Bulls got the opening try when winger Troy Black scored wide out in the 15th minute.
Chad O’Donnell converted to give the Bulls a 6-nil lead. In a match that became one of limited chances, O’Donnell slotted a penalty goal on the stroke of half time to give the Bulls a hard earned 8-nil lead at the break.
The Owls then got back into the game when bench player Chris Saab scored 10 minutes into the second half. Josh Camroux converted to cut the Bulls lead to 8-6.
The match then became one of the toughest arm wrestles seen in the Massey Cup this season for the next 20 minutes as chances were reduced to a premium.
Finally, with 10 minutes left – and almost fittingly in the way the match was played – Owls prop Treyvon Leuluai barged over to score the try to put Guildford into the lead for the first time at 10-8 despite Camroux missing the conversion.
Guildford then held on in the closing stages to secure their win to keep themselves in touching distance of the Top Four, whilst sending the Bulls – missing high profile recruit Feleti Mateo – to their third straight defeat.
The Auburn Warriors continued their form revival with a thrilling 26-24 win over a gallant Western Suburbs in their twice postponed Round Three match at Belmore Sports Ground last Saturday.
Halfback Manaia Rudolph continued his purple patch of form since leaving Blacktown Workers with a superb solo try to extend the Warriors lead to 10-nil when he converted his own try to become the first player to reach 100 points for the Massey Cup season – 24 hours before Davis joined him for the Saints the next day.
Wests then got on the board following a Warriors turnover when Sam Aiga scored wide out to reduce the Auburn lead to 10-4.
Both sides then ground through the rest of the first half until Warriors five eighth Abraham El-Zakhem finished off sustained build up to score in the shadows of half time. Rudolph converted to give the Warriors a 16-4 lead at the break.
Wests struck back to start the second half when after taking advantage from a penalty set five minutes into the second stanza, a Brendan Waters pass sent Kelsey Coakes over toe score to reduce the Warriors lead to 16-8.
The Warriors kept the Magpies at arms length when a Jamie Clark pass sent El-Zakhem away for his second try nine minutes later, before a solo special from Waters kept the Magpies in the game five minutes later at 22-14 after the Massey Cup Representative half added the extras himself.
Another Waters break six minutes later saw Aiga complete his double wide out to bring the Magpies back to within four points with 15 minutes left, before former NRL Canterbury Premiership winger Matt Utai gave the Warriors an eight point cushion five minutes later.
Utai then dropped a high cross kick for Tala Mapesone to score with six minutes left to set up a grandstand finish at 26-24 with Waters’ conversion.
In a frantic last two minutes, Wests turned down a kickable penalty to run the ball – only to see Rudolph save a try with a desperate one on one strip.
Then one last Wests attack as the final siren sounded was intercepted by the Warriors to secure their win – virtually finishing the Magpies’ chances of making the Top Eight Finals, even though Wests also walked away with two competition points from their scheduled bye.
Finally, the much maligned Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles kept their place in the Top Four with a 38-26 win over the Cabramatta Two Blues in an entertaining match at New Era Stadium last Saturday evening.
After Blacktown fullback Kelepi Manu got the opening try in the fourth minute, opposite number and Massey Cup representative Don Thompson got the Two Blues reply to reduce the visitors’ lead to 6-4.
Blacktown backrower Alan Niulesa – another returning Pacific Islands Students squad member from their Universities World Cup Final appearance despite not playing in the decider – then crashed over in the 11th minute to give the Workers Sea Eagles a 12-4 lead with Manu’s conversion.
Both sides then went try for try for the rest of the half. Two Blues winger Sione Kaivelata scored wide out in the 20th minute, before his direct opponent Pattyloma Aupaau replied in kind nine minutes later to extend the Blacktown lead to 18-8 with Manu’s conversion.
Former Newtown Jets and Cronulla Sharks powerhouse forward Ryan Verlinden then scored his first try since returning to Australia from his stint at Workington Town in the English Second Tier Championship to reduce the Blacktown lead to 18-14 at the break after Thompson added the extras.
Aupaau then got his second try with Blacktown’s first attack of the second half to extend the visitors’ lead, before centre Amanaki Manu put the visitors in command with a 30-14 lead after brother Kelepi added the extras.
Cabramatta hooker Tom Harris burrowed over from close range to keep the Two Blues in touch at 30-20 with 20 minutes left, before Blacktown winger Shaun Fitzgerald almost put the visitors out of sight with his try with 10 minutes left.
Kelepi Manu converted, and slotted a penalty goal to complete a perfect seven goals from seven attempts with five minutes left to secure the Blacktown win at 38-20.
Cabramatta half Brendan Cox scored in the last two minutes to ensure the Two Blues had the last word to close out the 38-26 result with Thompson’s last conversion.
Mounties enjoyed a bye with two competition points, while Wentworthville had a weekend off without a bye or any competition points – having played their round 20 match against the Warriors three weeks ago.
The order of the Massey Cup table remained unchanged after the weekend – with St Marys and Wentworthville sharing the lead on 34 points, still six points clear of Hills District and Blacktown on 28, with Guildford (27), Mounties (26), Concord-Buroood-Glebe (26) and Auburn Warriors (24) maintaining their positions on the ladder.
Wests (19) and Cabramatta (16) remain out of the Top Eight after the weekend round.
This weekend sees two matches set down for Saturday and two matches set down for Sunday – with all games having a bearing on the order of the Top Eight.
Saturday’s games see Concord-Burwood-Glebe playing the last of their Leichhardt Oval home games in the Glebe ‘Dirty Reds’ jumpers at 3pm, and St Marys taking on Guildford at St Marys Leagues Stadium at 4pm.
Sunday’s matches have traditional rivals Wentworthville and Mounties meet at Ringrose Park at 1pm as the main curtain raiser to the Intrust Super Premiership NSW match between Wentworthville and Canterbury later in the day, while Blacktown Workers clash with the Auburn Warriors at Laybutt Fields at 3pm.