HIGHLIGHTS | Sydney Shield Round 20

In a weekend with plenty of tries and plenty of points, competition leaders Mounties kept their place on top of the Sydney Shield ladder with a convincing 44-12 win over defending premiers East Campbelltown in their match at Aubrey Keech Reserve last Sunday.

The Mulga were always in control from the time half back Vince Ripepi scored inside the opening minute on Mounties opening attack.  Mounties centre Ben Dooley scored in the seventh minute to extend the home side’s lead to 10-nil after Jye Ellul converted.

Hooker John Martin burrowed over from dummy half in the 22nd minute to give Mounties a 14-nil lead, before Eagles five eighth Brett Lahey kept the premiers in touch with his try that Ben Baker converted on the stroke of half-time to leave the Mulga up 14-6 at the break.

Mounties second rower Matt Whitehouse ended any Eagles thoughts of a comeback when he scored six minutes into the second half to set the Mulga on their way. 

The Mulga then put together three tries in 10 minutes in the middle of the second half to put the result beyond doubt – through former Gold Coast NRL winger Leva Li (55th minute), and centres Jake Steadman (59th minute) and Ben Dooley (64th minute) – with a 38-6 lead with 15 minutes to play.

Prop Ken Soumpholphadky then put the icing on the Mulga cake with his first try of the season with 10 minutes left to blow the lead to 44-6 after Maltese International winger Ellul landed his sixth conversion from eight attempts.

The Eagles – still reeling from the sudden recent passing of halfback Wayde Dunley – managed the final word with a try from Adam Soultan in the final minute that Baker converted to close out Mounties’ 44-12 win.

On the back of a hat-trick of tries to both hooker Peter Nay and half back Jay Toby, St Marys maintained their place in the top four with an easy 46-14 win over an undermanned Belrose Eagles in the other feature match-of-the-round at St Marys Leagues Stadium last Sunday.

The Saints wasted no time in asserting control with Nay scoring his first try in the fourth minute.  Toby scored two tries in three minutes to keep the Saints up with the clock at 18-nil in as many minutes – with Toby converting each of the opening three majors.

Against a Belrose outfit that was forced to call up 38-year-old former Manly NRL prop and club stalwart Jim Curtis out of retirement to play his first match since their 2015 Finals Series exit, the Saints continued to put the hapless Eagles defence to the sword in the back end of the first half.

Nay scored his first try in the 27th minute, before Toby completed his hat trick on the half hour mark for a 26-nil lead.  Bench player Thomson Tuigamala then completed an almost perfect first half for the Saints when he scored five minutes from the break for a 32-nil lead at the interval with Toby’s conversion giving the half a personal tally of 20 points.

Nay then completed his hat trick on the Saints’ first attack of the second stanza, before five eighth Meni Luke scored five minutes into the second half to threaten a total rout at 42-nil after Nay added the extras.

Belrose then finally saved some face when bench halfback Stewart Raines scored four minutes later to get the visitors on the board, before winger Richie Goodwin scored with 15 minutes left for winger Harry O'Toole to convert and get the Eagles into double figures at 42-10.

The Saints finshed off their afternoon when Andy Oughtred scored wide out with seven minutes left, before O'Toole finished off a neat Belrose movement to score with three minutes left to close out the 46-14 St Marys thrashing.

The Wentworthville Magpies kept their hold down on third spot with a comfortable 36-16 win over the Moorebank Rams in their match at Ringrose Park last Sunday.

Winger Josh Minhinnick relished his return to Sydney Shield with an early try to go with an early strike by Magpies centre Jermaine Mati-Leifi that gave Wenty an early lead that the Magpies always held for the rest of the match.

Minhinnick and Mait-Leifi each went on to complete doubles – with Minhinnick’s double giving him 13 tries in Sydney Shield for the season. 

Opposite Wenty winger Braydon Walsh scored on his wing, with half Brendon Newton and bench player Lionel O’Mally scoring late tries to round out the Magpies win.  Newton added four conversions from seven attempts to go with his try.

Rams five eighth Zac Hetherington scored late in the first half to keep the visitors in touch, while Blake Clayton and half Kieran Hayman scored for Moorebank in the second half to give the final score some respect, with Hayman kicking two conversions from three attempts to add to his try.

The Asquith Magpies overcame a disrupted leadup that led to only having 15 available players to topple Western Suburbs Magpies 32-24 at Hillier Oval, Liverpool last Saturday morning in the ‘battle of the birds’ to keep their place in the Shield Top Four.

After having to deal with a late scheduling change to a 10:00am kickoff after the match was rescheduled twice in the week leading up to the match, the Magpies started the match on fire with an opening blitz spearheaded by fullback Jake Pickering.

After Wests had early chances, Pickering made a break in the fourth minute to send winger Alex Nicholls-O’Neill away for his first try to open the scoring.

Nicholls-O’Neill then got to a kick on the last tackle on the next set from the restart to send hooker Dallas Halo away to score for a 12-nil lead after seven minutes when Vinny Ngaro added his second conversion.

Pickering then blew the Wests defence away four minutes later to feed winger Ari Bou-Sleiman who returned the pass for Pickering’s first try and a 16-nil Asquith lead after just 10 minutes.

Pickering then dashed away for his double – and his 16th try of the season – in the 20th minute to keep Asquith up with the clock at 22-nil after Ngaro added the extras.

Wests then began their comeback thanks to some inspirational play from their young centre Charlton Schaafhausen late in the first half.

First, a ’bellringer’ tackle by the centre jolted the ball free in the next set from the restart before picking up the loose ball to score his – and West’s – first try.   Blake Higgins converted to cut the Asquith lead to 22-6.

Then Schaafhausen dashed through a gap from a Billy Kitt pass to score his second try in the shadows of half time to keep Wests in touch at only 22-10 down at the break.

Wests centre Nathan Tui then won the race to a Higgins kick five minutes into the second half, before prop Hans Ta’ala then crashed over from close range on Wests’ next meaningful attack from a penalty to bring the home side back to 22-20 with Higgins’ conversion.

After weathering the storm with their reduced two man rotation, centre Andy Taylor scored in the 51st minute from a turnover to give Asquith some breathing space with a 26-20 lead.

After both sides had chances over the next 20 minutes, Nicholls-O’Neill burst clear before kicking for himself and just beating Schaafhausen to complete his double with 10 minutes to play for his 16th try of the year.  Ngaro converted and Asquith had a 32-20 lead.

Wests had the last word against the tiring Asquith defence as Higgins scored the last ttry of the match after good lead up work from Justin Frain with five minutes left.  Higgins missed the conversion and Asquith ran down the clock to the end to complete their 32-24 win.

The Guildford Owls kept the pressure on the Top Four with a 58-22 trouncing of the Hills District Bulls in their match at McCredie Park last Sunday.

In another typical Sydney Shield tryfest, Guildford fullback Cameron Eyles got the opening try in the opening minute to set the tone for the match.  Bulls lock Isaac Gorman finished off good buildup from the visitors to score his first try in reply in the 10th minute.

James Horvat converted to level the scores for the only time in the match at six points each.

The Owls then regained the lead in a sign of things to come later when centre Cameron Mazzelli scored in the 10th minute, and young prop Shaquille Moubayed barged over from close range four minutes later to give the Owls an 18-6 lead.

The Bulls tried valiantly to keep in touch with a try to winger Tui Nawaikalou in the 23rd minutes to get back to 18-10, before the Owls attack cut loose for the rest of the half to put the visitors away.

Winger Nick Okladnikov sped over to score his first try wide out nine minutes from half time to start a scoring blitz that won the match for the Owls.  Five eighth Jaydn Field scored his first try three minutes from half time, before bench player Peni Fainu scored on the stroke of half time to give Guildford a remarkable 34-10 lead.

Owls hooker Tyrone Shelley scored in Guildford’s first attack of the second half, before Okladnikov completed his double five minutes later to blow the Owls’ lead to 46-10 as five eighth Todd Sapienza continued adding conversions.

Bulls ingterchange player Tunui Alatasi got a try midway through the second half to temporarily stem the bleeding, before Field scored two brilliant tries in the space of three minutes to complete his hat trick with 10 minutes left and bring up the Guildford half century at 58-16 after Sapienza converted to give him nine goals from 10 attempts.

Gorman completed his double for the Bulls in the closing stages to close out the emphatic 58-22 Guildford win.

Finally, two converted tries in the last 10 minutes propelled Cabramatta into the Shield’s Top Eight on their own in a hard fought 28-18 win in their match at New Era Stadium last Saturday.

The Two Blues started the match strongly when fullback Pat Dumont bagged an early double to give Cabramatta an early 8-nil win after 10 minutes.

With their spot in the Top Eight on the line, the Workers Sea Eagles steadied after the early blitz before stroking back with winger Bilal Maarbani’s first try in 23rd minute.  Skipper Luke Chalkley converted to keep the match tight with Cabramatta leading 8-6 at half time.

Maarbani completed his double just two minutes into the second half to give Blacktown the lead for the first time at 12-8 with Chalkley’s conversion.

In what became a see sawing second half, Jean-Luc Knox scored for Cabramatta six minutes to level up again at 12-all.  Blacktown winger Bill Benjamin then finished off a Blacktown movement to score in the 52nd minute to regain the lead for the visitors at 16-12.

Chalkley missed the conversion, but landed a penalty goal five minutes later to extend the Blacktown lead to 18-12.

Cabramatta came back one last time when five eighth Jay Belgrove scored his first try to get the Two Blues back to 18-16 with 20 minutes left to set up a grandstand finish.

Just as Blacktown looked to be hanging on to their lead as the match headed into the last 10 minutes, Belgrove scored his second try after sustained Two Blues attack to regain the lead at 22-18 as Dumont finally landed his first conversion.

Knox then added his second try with six minutes to play to give the Two Blues their match winning 28-18 lead after Dumont added the conversion.  Cabramatta then held their lead in the closing stages to send Blacktown out of the Top Eight for the first time this season.

The Sydney Shield table remained relatively unchanged after the weekends round with Mounties (36 points), St Marys (34), Wentworthville (32), Asquith (28), and Guildford (26) all holding their places.

East Campbelltown (24) and Belrose (20) stay in the Top Eight with Cabramatta (20) now sitting in eighth spot outright ahead of Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles on 18 points.

Hills District Bulls (14), Wests (12) and Moorebank (12) all seem to be out of the Finals running – with the Rams still bottom of the ladder on percentages.

This weekend’s full round kicks off with the attractive match betweem St Marys and Guildford at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday at 2pm.

The other five games of the round will be played on Sunday with the pick of the round seeing traditional rivals Wentworthville and Mounties square off at Ringrose Park at 11:15am on a bumper program of matches across all NSWRL competitions.

Of the other Sunday games, emotions will run high at Waminda Oval when East Campbelltown play their first home game since Dunley’s untimely passing in the usually emotion-charged Benny Stevens Memorial Cup match against Western Suburbs at 2:30pm. 

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