Sydney Shield Minor Premiers Mounties got their Finals campaign back on track with a convincing 34-12 win over the Guildford Owls in the First Semi Final at Ringrose Park, Wentworthville, last Sunday.
The Mulga started strongly when winger Jake Steadman scored his first try in the seventh minute and duly converted to give the Mulga an early 6-nil lead.
Both sides then probed for the opening as the match settled into an arm wrestle over the next 15 minutes – with a long Cameron Eyles break for Guildford the closest either side came to a break in that period.
A piece of brilliance from Mounties half Brad Speechley then broke the match open in the 22nd minute.
After executing a superb chip kick over the top of the defensive line and regather on kick chase, Speechley steadied with a second cross field kick to find a trailing Steadman wide out to score his second try in the corner.
Steadman again added the extras to give the Mulga a 12-nil lead.
Mounties centre Ben Chahoud then finished off a right-side shift nine minutes from half time to give the Minor Premiers a 16-nil lead.
That was a lead that Mounties took to the half time break – with Steadman missing a long range 40 metre penalty goal attempt as the half time siren sounded.
More good lead up break down the right-side attack seven minutes into the second half saw Mounties centre Sonny Bristow make the half break and send Steadman in for his hat trick of tries and a commanding 20-nil Mulga lead.
A desperate Guildford attack finally got their first try four minutes later when five eighth Josh Maree burst over to score off a short pass from close range. Todd Sapienza’s conversion got Guildford on the board at 20-6.
Guildford had chances to cut the lead further but couldn’t capitalize – with Tyrone Shelley guilty on two occasions of taking the wrong option on the last tackle when close to the Mulga goal line – before Mounties scored the critical match winning try at the mid-way point of the second half.
Mulga fullback Corey Makelim made the break from deep in his own half before sending Bristow away on a 50-metre dash to just score with momentum one roll ahead of Sapienza’s desperate covering tackle under the posts. Steadman converted for a 26-6 Mounties lead.
A ruck penalty and resultant advancement of the mark by referee referee Daniel Olford saw Steadman slot an easy 20 metre penalty goal with 15 minutes left for a 28-6 lead, before Guildford had their best attacking period of the match in the closing quarter hour.
That period was capped off by powerful second rower Caleb Hunt charing over from close range with eight minutes for Sapienza to convert to cut the lead back to 28-12.
Mounties had the last word when a Maree chip kick was picked up by Speechley with four minutes left – for the Mulga half to dash 65 metres to score the last try of the match under the posts.
Steadman converted to give the winger a personal tally of 22 points and close out the 34-12 win to earn a Preliminary Final clash with Wentworthville this Saturday – finishing Guildford’s season.
The St Marys Saints also returned to their best form with an emphatic 42-10 thumping of a flat East Campbelltown Eagles in the Second Semi-Final at Ringrose Park last Sunday to end the Eagles’ Premiership defence.
St Marys began the match almost immediately on the front foot when winger Ratu Tuisese scored his first try in the Saints’ first attacking set of the match to give for a 4-nil lead after just 90 seconds of play.
Saints half Jake Toby then extended their lead in the 12th minute with a neat finish for his 15th try of the season to give St Marys a 10-nil lead after Aiden Glanville added the extras.
East Campbelltown fullback Amanono Tovio then completed the Eagles’ best attacking period of the first half with his try five minutes later to get the defending Premiers back in the contest at 10-6 after Ben Baker’s conversion.
Glanville then slotted a penalty goal in the 23rd minute to extend the Saints lead to 12-6 as the Eagles started to give away penalties in defence to try and slow the Saints attack in what was a relatively tight affair in the first half.
Those repeated infringements led to East Campbelltown five eighth Brett Lahey being sin binned for 10 minutes by referee Darian Furner in the 30th minute.
Experienced St Marys bench forward Pat Hollis scored almost immediately from the penalty set from Lahey’s sin binning for a 16-6 lead, before Glanville scored his try four minutes from half time.
The Shield Team’s five eighth of the year converted his try to shoot the Saints out to a 22-6 lead at the break.
Lahey returned from the bin at the start of the second half and helped set up centre Theo Leato to crash over for his try wide out nine minutes into the second half to raise hopes of another trademark East Campbelltown Finals comeback at 22-10.
However – after both sides had chances to score – Tuisese scored his second try six minutes later for the Saints to kick away at 26-10.
Hollis then crashed over for his second try mid-way through the second half to virtually put the semi-final to bed for St Marys as the lead blew out to 30-10.
The Eagles’ frustrations at seeing their season slip away came out when second rower Adam Soultan was sin binned by referee Furner for dissent with 15 minutes left.
The Saints then went right on with the job against the dispirited 12 man Eagles outfit when centre Alan Eisenhuth made a sure thing of the win when he scored wide out for a 34-10 lead.
Winger Andrew Oughtred then ensured that the Saints finished the match stylishly when he scored a late double either side of Soultan’s return from the sin bin in the closing stages to complete the 42-10 scoreline – which could have been greater had Glanville had a better day with the boot than his eventual three goals from 10 attempts.
For the Eagles, it was a disappointing end to a promising back half of their year in defence of the 2016 title – building hopes of overcoming the well documented tragic loss of Wayde Dunley mid-year.
For the Saints, they booked a second straight Preliminary Final appearance in their two years in the Shield competition – this time against the Asquith Magpies this Saturday.
Those Preliminary Finals this Saturday at Lidcombe Oval promise two outstanding match ups as the Top Four teams on the Shield ladder at the end of the regular season have eventually won through to the second last weekend of the year.
First up at 11am, traditional rivals Wentworthville and Mounties will again renew September rivalry when they do battle in the first Preliminary Final, before Asquith clash with St Marys in the second Preliminary Final at 3pm.
Results | Sydney Shield Finals Week 2
St Marys Saints 42 (R Tuisese 2, P Hollis 2, A Oughtred 2, J Toby, A Glanville, A Eisenhuth tries; A Glanville 3 goals) def East Campbelltown 10 (A Tovio, T Leato tries; B Baker goal)
Mounties 32 (J Steadman 3, B Chahoud, V Tia Kilifi, B Speechley tries; J Steadman 5 goals) def Guildford Owls 12 (J Maree, C Hunt tries; T Sapienza 2 goals)
The NSWRL senior competitions’ finals series, covered like never before on NSWRL.com.au and the NSWRL Facebook page, culminate on Grand Final Day at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday 24 September. Be there to witness history, with tickets just $10 for adults and children under 12 free.