The Mounties have recorded an emphatic 44 points to 12 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in the sides’ Round 25 clash at Aubrey Keech Reserve.
Running in 8 tries to 2, the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Finalists flexed their muscles against an undermanned Workers Sea Eagles outfit.
Blacktown headed into the clash without regular half Cameron Cullen on NRL duties in Auckland, before Jackson Hastings was heavily concussed in the 36th minute – playing no further part thereafter.
Full of confidence on the back of a grinding win over the Newtown Jets at Henson Park in Round 24, Mounties’ forward pack picked up from where it left off the week prior, giving the hosts an early territorial advantage.
Marching their way deep inside Blacktown’s half, the hosts made the Workers Sea Eagles pay, as Michael Oldfield crossed for the first try of the match after only three minutes played.
The try scored nearer the Eastern touchline, five-eighth Maurice Kennedy couldn’t turn four points into six as his shot on goal sailed across the face of the uprights.
Up by four points and exuding confidence on the back of an early try, Mounties laid claims to all of the early momentum – winning tackles, offloading at will, and causing headaches for the Blacktown defensive line.
Their runners streaming through would-be gaps in the Sea Eagles’ defence, it was only the outstretched arm and clean hands of Blacktown hooker-turn-half Joey Lussick to prevent Mounties extending their lead to double figures.
In turn, Lussick’s clean collect of the grubber kick saw him into space, and with only daylight in front of him, the number seven set sail on a 90-metre dash to the try line.
Herded towards the corner by the pursuing chasers, Hastings had no trouble from converting the try from out wide, as Blacktown took a surprise 6-4 lead with 12 minutes gone.
Hastings again looked likely to add points to the Blacktown tally – though this time not of his own – from the ensuing set of six, as his pin-point cross-field kick into the in-goal found winger James Tuitahi.
Tuitahi couldn’t get the ball to the ground though, the impact of falling heavily into the in-goal after taking the catch enough to see a knock on, and only a two-point lead maintained.
The Sea Eagles would be made to rue their missed chance almost immediately as Mounties worked the ball down field, the seven-tackle set enough to see them into a good attacking area, and over for their second try.
A skip close to the line and a deft pass from backrower Scott Sorensen saw his outside man Yileen Gordon into a half-gap, before ‘Buddy’ turned possession on to winger Edward Aiono to cross for points.
Again, Kennedy was unable to convert from wide out, as Mounties took an 8-6 front.
A quarter of the match gone, the sides went set-for-set before eventually Mounties went in for their third try of the afternoon, a peach of a pass from halfback Erin Clark seeing Jack Nelson go through untouched.
Running the put-down adjacent to the right upright, Kennedy had no trouble in adding the extra two at the third time of trying.
Leading by eight, experienced Mounties forward Jeff Lima was injected into the contest by coach Steve Antonelli. One of his first involvements, a late shoulder to the head of Blacktown five-eighth Hastings, who was heavily concussed in the act.
Hastings returned to the sideline early in the second-half though only as a spectator, deemed unable to play any further part in the match.
Put on report for the shot, Lima’s hit was a sour end to the first-half, as the hosts took a 14-6 lead into the sheds with 40 minutes behind them.
At the change of ends, the Blacktown attack was clearly missing the spark that Hastings brings – a reshuffle in the ‘spine’ not what was needed for the side already down by more than a converted try.
A burrowing run from close to the line by edge-forward Jack Nelson couldn’t be stopped by the tiring Blacktown defence, which crumbled when pressure was applied. Kennedy again sailed the kick between the posts to send the hosts out by 14.
That 14-point deficit for Blacktown was extended to 20 when Mounties fullback Lachlan Croker dived through to collect a deflected grubber kick, with Kennedy raising the touch judges’ flags – the pivot having found his kicking radar after a pair of early misses.
Blacktown found a glimmer of hope when James Tuitahi crashed over for what would prove nothing more than a consolation try in the 58th minute – from that point on Mounties had all the running, showing that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come the Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals.
Two tries in the space of five minutes from interchange forwards Jack Murchie and Makahesi Makatoa sent the Mounties further on their way; Kennedy converting both four-pointers as the score quickly raced to 44-12 in favour of the hosts.
That's the way it would end at the sound of the final siren, with Mounties to take on defending Intrust Super Premiership NSW Premiers Illawarra in the first week of the Finals - a rematch of the 2016 decider.
Mounties 44 (J Nelson 2, M Oldfield, E Aiono, L Knight, L Croker, J Murchie, M Makatoa tries; M Kennedy 6 goals) def Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 12 (J Lussick, J Tuitahi tries; J Hastings, J Lussick goals)