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LIVE COVERAGE | Sydney Shield Preliminary Finals

Rolling coverage of the Sydney Shield Preliminary Finals

St Marys Saints v Ryde-Eastwood Hawks

Andrew Jackson

Ryde Eastwood Hawks have qualified for the Sydney Shield Grand Final after overcoming a fast-finishing St Marys 40-24 at Kogarah on Sunday.

It marks a stunning rise for the club, who made their return to top-flight football this season after a 20-year absence.

They now will face Cabramatta in the Grand Final only two weeks after toppling the Minor Premier 26-22. It was a thrilling comeback win in extra-time, with Ryde-Eastwood trailing by 14 points heading into the final 10 minutes.

A fast start ensured they wouldn’t be chasing a lead against second-placed St Marys though, running in five tries in the first half. An early try in the second half saw them jump out to a 30-6 lead which seemed unassailable.

That was until St Marys surged home with three tries of their own to set up a nervous finish as Ryde-Eastwood fought to avoid the same disappointment they inflicted on Cabramatta a fortnight ago.

Halfback Mitchell Gray starred for the Hawks in the opening 40 minutes, his running game proving a handful early as he scored a double in the first 13 minutes.

Ryde-Eastwood dominated proceedings early but St Marys held strong after the onslaught and hit back through Thomas Romer in the 24th minute.

Tristan Evans-Tsoi then came on at hooker to add a much-needed spark midway through the first half for the Hawks and skipped out of dummy-half to score.

They quickly went in again three minutes later as a string of offloads ended with Bradley Cincotta slicing over out wide.

Frustrations boiled over for St Marys, with Blake McDermott sent to the sin bin in the 35th minute for throwing a punch. Ryde-Eastwood immediately capitalised, Evans-Tsoi using his pace to steam through a hole in the middle and score under the posts.

They looked to have landed a killer blow as fullback Angelo Panambalana crossed over as the buzzer sounded, only for the pass to be called forward.

The Hawks rectified the mistake shortly after play resumed in the second half as Josh Rizk powered over in the corner within three minutes.

St Marys winger Jake Maizen responded with his own show of strength as he forced his way over in the corner. A string of penalties saw Evans-Tsoi binned for the Hawks and momentum suddenly shifted as five-eighth Immanuel Tagalomatua took on the line and scored to reduce the deficit to 14 points.

Tagalomatua’s footwork caught out Ryde-Eastwood once more as the Hawks scrambled to stop Daniel Brown from scoring a certain try under the posts. They couldn’t stop a determined McDermott though as the pressure of defending multiple sets on their own line eventually told.

The Hawks rallied though and an intercept from Adam Rizk proved the telling blow in St Mary’s quest for glory. Only a few plays later Bennett Wheelhouse rolled in a perfectly-weighted grubber for Panambalana.

Tyler Seymour then charged down the left edge to seal the hard-fought win.

A mistake from Gray saw Maizen run away for his second but it mattered little with the difference already past three converted tries.

East Campbelltown v Cabramatta

Cabramatta are through to the 2019 Sydney Shield Grand Final after a 42-16 victory over the East Campbelltown Eagles. 

The Eagles were on the board first through Theo Leato, but Cabramatta piled on the points by scoring the next six. 

Christian Papa had a fantastic day with the boot, kicking seven goals from seven attempts. 

They will now play the winner of St Marys v Ryde-Eastwood in the Grand Final.