Preliminary Final - Moorebank Rams v East Campbelltown Eagles
Saturday 15 September, 11am
The Rugby League festival at Leichhardt Oval began with an absolute thriller in the Sydney Shield, with East Campbelltown coming from behind in a 24-20 Grand Final qualifier.
Edwin Connor laid a try on a platter for his back-rower to open the scoring when he threw a brilliant double-pump for Mason Talolua to isolate his opposite man and crash over.
Moorebank dominated the next period of the game, laying on three consecutive tries; the goal-kicking radar was off however, converting none of these chances.
The first was thanks to some great vision by Muong Dut, who picked the ball out of dummy half and threw a brilliant pass for Josh Wilkinson to stroll over.
A left-to-right scrum play was perfectly executed from the Rams for their next try which allowed Alvin Maungaati to score, before Logan Hauff crashed over off the back of a sharp play on the other side of the field.
That try gave the Rams a six point lead before a penalty goal gave them more breathing room, but East Campbelltown refused to go away when Theodore Leato scored next to the posts.
The Eagles took the lead back shortly after when Brett Lahey got himself over the tryline, and for what seemed like an age until he planted the ball down, he eventually wrestled the Eagles into a four point lead.
Talolua seemed to have sealed the game and a Grand Final appearance for East Campbelltown with a try in the 71st minute, but the Rams gave the Eagles a late scare.
Hauff ran an excellent line to score his second try which gave them three minutes to find at least four more points, and three consecutive grubbers from Jake Horton almost led to a try before it was skilfully plucked out of the air by Shannon Gallant.
The Eagles defended a final set which now sends them to the 2018 Sydney Shield Grand Final.
EAST CAMPBELLTOWN 24 (M Talolua 2 T Leato B Lahey tries E Connor 4 goals) MOOREBANK 20 (L Hauff 2 J Wilkinson A Maungaati tries N Williams 2).
Preliminary Final - Wentworthville Magpies v Guildford Owls
Sunday 16 September, 11am
The Guildford Owls have stormed from seventh position on the Sydney Shield ladder competition's 2018 Grand Final, on the back of a thrilling 24-22 victory over the Wentworthville Magpies.
Guildford enjoyed a large bulk of possession in good-ball territory to start the game, largely thanks to a perfect 40/20 from halfback Nathan Masima.
Wentworthville defended their line superbly in this period and it wasn’t until the 16th minute that their wall was broken when Daniel Vasek picked the ball up from dummy half and crashed over for the first try of the morning.
One of the best individual tries ever seen graced Leichhardt Oval in the 28th minute when Magpies’ five-eighth Kauri Aupouri made a charge from 40 metres out, burst through the defence and showed speed to beat the fullback and score an amazing try under the posts.
Guildford went bang-bang to finish the first half with polarising tries; the first a short range, powerful effort by James Porter and the second being from inside their own half when Robert Longbottom found space and linked up with Masima for a great try.
Down by 12, the Magpies simply had to turn it on if they were any chance and that is exactly what they did. They started the second half with a strong try to Eparama Navale, before crafty halfback Brendon Newton shaped to take advantage of numbers on the right, but instead dummied and got through a number of defenders to lock the scores up 18-all.
It was then Guildford’s turn to light it up in the enthralling contest when the ball got out to Cameron Eyles in a left-side raid, and he showed plenty of speed to get through and beat the fullback, who slipped over, and take the lead right back.
The Magpies would not go away, and when the ball found its way into the hands of Aupouri who stepped off his left foot to score his second try to continue his brilliant day out. The conversion, however, was missed and Guildford still had a two point led.
The match-winning play came in the final five seconds of the game when Josh Maree pulled off an amazing tackle to shut down a potential late try to steal the game.
GUILDFORD 24 (D Vasek J Porter N Masima C Eyles tries Masima 4 goals) bt WENTWORTHVILLE 22 (K Aupouri 2 E Navale B Newtown tries Newtown 3 goals)