Mounties have retained the lead in the 2015 #VBNSWCup minor premiership after a nail biting 26-24 victory over Manly at Central Coast Stadium on Easter Sunday.
Mounties got off to a great start when an error by Manly from the kickoff gifted them great field position and in the 5th minute Mitch Cornish made the most of it when he stepped through the defensive line and dived over near the posts to make it 4-0 early on, the conversion missing the posts.
Mounties then made inroads into the Manly line with Luke Page and Mitch Barnett bending the line back constantly however some uncharacteristic errors allowed Manly back into the game and in the 14th minute they were able to score out wide when a cross field kick was tapped back for a try and the Eagles led 6-4 after the conversion.
Four minutes later Manly were in again through Andrews after another bomb was spilt on the line and the home team were able to score the easiest of tries and with the conversion they led 12-4.
In the 30th minute Manly were in again when former Mounties and Canberra front rower Uiti Baker crashed over under the posts to make it 18-4 and Mounties looked on the ropes with half time looming.
Mounties then clawed a try back when Jack Ahearn made a great run and was able to promote Mitch Cronin for a four pointer and with the conversion by Cornish it was Manly leading 18-10.
On the stroke of half time Kurt Baptiste burrowed his way over the line from dummy half to make it 18-16 after the conversion by Cornish and at the break the two point deficit was welcomed by Coach Antonelli who wasn't pleased with the first half effort.
The second half got off to the worst possible start for Mounties with Rhys Kennedy making an error and Manly were straight on the attack with desperate defence able to hold them out and in the 48th minute Mounties were able to score when Gus Aiga ended a nice backline move after a turnover, Mounties retaking the lead 20-18 after the Conversion by Cornish was waved off.
The lead was short lived though with Manly crossing in the 51st minute for a converted try when a fundamental defensive lapse from Mounties opened up a hole and Reardon was able to stroll over and make it 24-20.
Luke Page was then injected back into the game and proceeded to wreak havoc on the Manly defensive line and on the back of his runs Mounties were able to score a converted try when Gus Aiga was again on the back of some nice hands from Cornish and Ahearn and with the conversion by Cornish Mounties led 26-24 at the three quarter mark.
Both teams then traded sets with fundamental errors, defensive lapses and poor concentration making it difficult for either team to dominate the final stanza but Manly had the better of play and stretched Mounties defensive line several times with the visitors coming up trumps when it counted.
With the clock winding down rapidly Mounties were able to string together some back to back sets and pin Manly in their own half and with a minute left on the clock Josh McCrone went for a short side play which was knocked down however Manly were given the feed and had one last chance to snatch victory.
From the scrum the Eagles spread the ball and found some space on the right edge and after chipping ahead they regathered the ball and looked to have found an open line but some desperate defence saw an error and Mounties were able to hold on for the win and stay in first place on the #VBNSWCup ladder.
Mounties next game is against the Newcastle Knights at Aubrey Keech Reserve next Saturday.
In the #SydneyShield match today Mounties suffered their first defeat on the season in any grade when they went down to Hills District 36-16.
Mounties 26 (Gus Aiga 2, Mitchell Cronin, Mitch Cornish, Kurt Baptiste tries; Cornish 3 goals) bt Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 24 (Ben Fritz, Dom Reardon, Tyson Andrews, Uiti Baker tries; Kurt Aldridge 4 goals)