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Denton Engineering Cup: South Newcastle Lions defeat Cessnock Goannas in Qualifying Final

Jessie Dennett

With a major semi final place on the line, it took until the dying embers of the match to see the South Newcastle Lions prevail over the Cessnock Goannas 26-20 at Townson Oval.

After a brilliant kick and chase try in the opening set for the Lions, the tone was set for an electric first 10 minutes with Cessnock scoring in the 7th minute and an immediate response by South Newcastle in the 10th minute, making the game 10-4. From this energetic start, the game would devolve into a battle of attrition of both teams fighting for chances that lasted for majority of the match.

It wouldn’t be until the 52nd minute with the score being 14-8 to South Newcastle, where the Lions would shift gear and have momentum swing in their favour, with Ryan Glanville and Lewis Hamilton going over making the score 26-8.

It would be enough for the Lions to qualify for the major semifinal, even after a late scare comeback from Cessnock with tries in the 75th and 78th minute to Reed Hugo and Harvey Neville respectively.

The first half couldn’t have started better for South Newcastle as from the opening set a kick and chase was incredibly successful, bouncing back into the rushing charge of three Lions players. It was picked up by Ryan Glanville and was passed to Reeve Howard who got the opening try of the match and Harry Croker got the conversion for a 6-0 start within the first minute.

A golden chance for the Goannas to respond went begging as a knock-on at the wing would see the Lions get a scrum. But after a knock-on by the Lions on their own 20, the Goannas would make this chance count as Harvey Neville would go over to get Cessnock on the board to make it 6-4 after a failed conversion.

The Lions would very quickly take back the lead with Harrison Van Dartel diving in the left corner to make it 10 – 4 at the 10-minute mark. With the conversion being unsuccessful. Van Dartel would almost increase the lead in the 17th minute, but his pass out to the wing was too quick heading out.

The pressure from Cessnock would lead to a beautiful pass from Luke Huth to Harrison Siejka in the 28th minute that would close the gap to two, but the wind would prevent the equalising conversion.

This upward momentum from Cessnock would grind to a halt after they gave away an attacking penalty for being offside. South Newcastle would make them pay as Connor Browne would go over in the 34th minute. However, with aid from the travelling Goannas fans, Harry Croker would miss of his conversion.

This would take us into half-time. Despite the score in favour of South Newcastle, the first half momentum was very down the middle. This would continue in the beginning stages of the first half.

The opportunity to break the stalemate was in the 52nd minute after Jai See of Cessnock hit the Lions kicker late, giving away a penalty and See being put on report. The footwork of halfback Angus Ernst opened the line for Ryan Granville to dive under the posts and give a much-needed momentum swing back in favour to the Lions. A successful conversion made the score 20 – 8.

It would be Granville again making the impact on the scoreboard as breaking through the Goannas line, he would pass to the supporting Lewis Hamilton who scored. With the conversion, the score was 26 – 8 and South Newcastle put one foot into the major semifinal.

Cessnock were certainly not going to go down without fighting as they would get the majority of possession in the last 15 minutes of the match. But it would take an absolute gift of a try in the 75th minute from an almost interception by the Lions, being battered back straight to Reed Hugo to make the score 26 – 14 after the conversion.

With two minutes to go, after a one-on-one strip on halfway, Harvey Neville would crash over in the right corner to get his second try of the day. With a perfect conversion on the sideline by Samuel Clune, it became 26 – 20.

Fortunately for South Newcastle, there were only 10 seconds remaining until full time, only requiring an easy tackle to send the Lions into the Major Semi-Final against Maitland. Despite the loss, Cessnock remain in the finals, awaiting see whom they play in the minor semifinal.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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