Mounties have opened their 2015 campaign in the #VBNSWCup with a hard fought 22-20 win over Illawarra at Aubrey Keech Reserve on Saturday.
With the late inclusion of David Shillington and Shannon Boyd into the Mounties pack the added size put an immediate dent into the Illawarra team with Shillington leading the forwards charge for the home team and Boyd became too much for the Cutters pack to handle at times.
The first fifteen minutes of the game was a classic trade with both packs trying to gain the upper hand with Mounties coming out slightly on top, Pat Mago working his way into the pace of the game and Mark Nicolls getting through a ton of work.
In the 23rd minute Illawarra looked likely to score when a sweeping backline move gave them some space on the right edge however a great covering tackle from Mounties winger Gus Aiga bundled his opposite Into touch in goal and Mounties were off the hook for the time being.
Mistakes started to creep into the game and in the 28th minute the Cutters were able to capitalise when Aitken was able to crash over and open the scoring for the game giving them a 4-0 lead after the conversion went wide.
Immediately after Mounties were able to force a mistake and from the ensuing play Sam Duggan shrugged off a couple of defenders and dived in under the sticks to give Sam Williams an easy conversion and Mounties led 6-4.
Just before the break Mounties went wide again and they looked to score on the right when Mago split the defence however the ball was dislodged and the try went begging and at the half Mounties led 6-4.
It wasn't long before the lead swapped again with the Cutters going in to score in the 44th minute and with the conversion they led 10-6 however that didn't last long with interchange hooker Kurt Baptiste forcing his way over from dummy half just three minutes later to give Williams another easy shot at goal and Mounties regained the lead 12-10.
In the 59th minute the Cutters took the lead back when an ugly grabber kick from Hutchinson rebounded off Mitch Cronin and into the leg of an Illawarra player. The ball then bobbled into the air and straight into the arms of a Cutters chaser who planted the ball for a four pointer and the Cutters led 16-12.
Mounties were able to capitalise on their size advantage again and after another mistake from the visitors Shannon Boyd was able to crash over next to the posts to give Mounties the lead again with the big Canberra forward terrorising the defence. Williams was able to slot the goal and Mounties led 18-16.
At the 69th minute mark Mounties extended their lead when a back line move found Bill Tupou held up over the line and from the restart Mounties went wide straight away with Duggan and Williams getting the ball quickly to the other side of the field and Cronin delivered a slick pass to Gus Aiga who dived over for the try, Williams was unable to convert and Mounties led 22-16.
With the clock winding down Mounties tried to extend their lead and came close several times but it was the Cutters who scored last when they found space on the right side and Runcimen was able to sprint 30 metres to score out wide however the conversion went wide and the score remained 22-20 to Mounties.
In the final minutes it was the class of Williams and Duggan that denied the Cutters a win with the halves taking control and guiding Mounties to the right end of the field with Williams earning a repeat set with a nicely placed grub that saw out the match.
Mounties 22 (Gus Aiga, Sam Duggan, Shannon Boyd, Kurt Baptiste tries; Sam Williams 3 goals) def. Illawarra Cutters 20 (Tyrone Cranston 2, Charly Runciman, Euan Aitken tries; Peter Mata'utia 2 goals)
1. Ahearn 2. Tupou 3. Hawkins 15. Cronin 5. Aiga 6. Duggan 7. Williams 18. Shillington 9. Buttris 23. Boyd 11. Mago 12. Edwards 13. Nicholls
8. O'Donnell 10. R Kennedy 14. Baptiste 16. Page