The Wyong Roos will have to wait at least another week to be officially crowned the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Minor Premiers, defeated by the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 28-24 at Lottoland this afternoon.
Three vital misses from the Roos' Paul Momirovski would be the difference in the end, but the competition favourites never had the lead in an error-riddled Round 22 match-up.
Wyong had welcomed Kane Evans and Lindsay Collins into the side, while the absence of Round 21 matchwinner Matt Ikuvalu brought Justin Toomey-White into the centres. The Sea Eagles were relatively unchanged and enjoyed the services of their ideal spine: Pita Godinet, Jackson Hastings, Cameron Cullen and Joey Lussick. Cullen was best on ground and played outstandingly, as did Hastings in the victory.
Points came instantly for the home side, with Cameron Cullen putting a grubber down the short side to find speedster Peter Schuster. The winger raced through, regathered and drew in Luke Sharpe, finding Jamil Hopoate to score after just 47 seconds of play. Hastings added the extras and it was a perfect start for Blacktown.
A failed kick for touch would prove disastrous for Wyong and as the game neared the 10-minute mark, a second grubber from Cullen reaped rewards. This time hard-running second-rower Jarrad Kennedy was the beneficiary, making the most of a deflection and paming off Sharpe to score under the posts.
A number of chances were squandered by the Blacktown side and they eventually gave Wyong time on their line. Kane Evans would prove too big and too strong from dummy-half, barging over for his side's first. With the conversion attempt sailing wide, the score was 12-4 with a quarter of the game gone.
Some bruising defence from the Roos looked to grasp momentum but it was against the run of play that they would score their second. Bernard Lewis calmly took a Joey Lussick bomb near his own line to beat the entire Sea Eagles defence, offloading to Sharpe who would race away and score.
It wouldn't be long until Cullen continued the Sea Eagles' charge, however, beating Evans to find space. The halfback passed inside to his five-eighth, with Hastings scoring and Lussick converting. Evans would be found out in defence again just minutes later, with fatigue setting in as Hastings sped past to find significant space, passing to Tyler Cassel to score. With the conversion from in front, Blacktown enjoyed a comfortable 24-10 half-time lead.
The stats heavily favoured the home side at the break and the Roos were desperate to wrestle their way back into the game, looking like building pressure with a forced restart at the 47-minute mark. A short dropout by Blacktown, however, extinguished that threat and when they made their way upfield, some superb work from James Tuitahi earned another try. The winger flew high above Bernard Lewis to excellently take a bomb from Hastings and score, making the score 28-10.
Kauri Aupouri had endured an up-and-down afternoon at Lottoland, but a fantastic five-minute period from the Wyong five-eighth soon got his side back in the game. With a penalty on the Sea Eagles' line, the Roos made the most of it as Aupouri sent Poasa Faamausili through a gap to score, before a chip kick was regathered and offloaded into Aupouri's hands to cross himself. Both conversion attempts were unsuccessful from Momirovski, however, keeping the difference at 10 points heading into the final quarter.
Most of the game was being played on Blacktown's line but when they got their chance down the other end of the field they managed to stay there with a repeat set. The Roos' defence held strong, however, and a classy 40-20 from captain Mitch Williams then gave the visitors a golden opportunity. Off the resulting tap, Eloni Vunakece barged through to score, converted for a 28-24 scoreline.
Errors continued to be the Roos' undoing in the final stages and while goalkicking would ultimately prove the difference, the Sea Eagles finished the game strongly to be deserved 28-24 winners.
Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 28 (J Hopoate, J Kennedy, J Hastings, T Cassel, J Tuitahi tries; J Lussick 2, J Hastings 2 goals) def Wyong Roos 24 (K Evans, L Sharpe, P Faamausili, K Aupouri, E Vunakece tries; P Momirovski 2 goals)