NSW Cup Match Report: Mounties cement top four spot
Mounties have defeated the Illawarra Cutters in a dour match at WIN Stadium Wollongong on Saturday and at the same time clinched themselves a vital top four playoff spot in September.
It was the Cutters who opened the scoring in the 7th minute when an error from Mounties opened up the left side of the field and a quick spread of the ball saw them over in the corner for an unconverted try to lead 4-0.
Mounties got into the grind, patience being the key, and with Mark Nicholls leading the way in the forward Mounties raided the line of the Cutters several times before Mitch Cornish was able to weave his way through some heavy traffic in the 19th minute to score near the posts however a horrible conversion attempt left the team at 4-4.
The game then ebbed and flowed from end to end with neither side getting the better of the other until the 34th minute when Brenko Lee combined with Jeremy Hawkins to get away down the right side and he had enough pace to get to the corner to score and make it 8-4 with the conversion again going wide.
The Cutters weren't done in the first half and they tried their hand several times for no result until right on the break when an error from Jack Ahearn in the Mounties half saw the Cutters spread the ball again to score on the stroke of half time to make it 8-8 going into the sheds.
The message was simple from coach Antonelli at half time, remove the mistakes and penalties and Mounties came out to this song in the second half and off the back of some decent possession crossed in the 50th minute when Mitch Cronin drew in the defence and delivered an amazing pass for Stuart Mills to gain an unchecked run to the line. This time Cornish was able to convert from near the sideline and Mounties led 14-8.
The Cutters levelled the match again in the 55th minute when Joe Rokoqo was crunched in a tackle and lost the ball around the half way line and the Cutters were able to capitalise and cross under the sticks through their half back who beat a one on one tackle to get the sides back even at 14-14.
Mounties then threw convention out the window when a mid field grubber on the 5th tackle was collected by Jeremy Hawkins who raced down field and found Mark Nicholls backing up on the inside to dive over and give Mounties a 20-14 lead after the conversion by Cornish.
Mounties then looked to have extended their lead when a great move down our right side saw Hawkins go over but the pass was deemed forward by the touchy and the Cutters then mounted several attacking moves after gaining repeat sets which saw Mounties defence stretch to the limit at times with desperate tackling repelling the onslaught.
It was then left to the youngsters of the team to get us out of trouble and playing without fear it was Brenko Lee and Jeremy Hawkins who combined down the right side in the 73rd minute with some crisp interchange of passing which saw Hawkins cross to make it 24-14 after Cornish couldn't find the middle of the posts again in the swirling wind.
The Cutters never gave up though and after a mid field mistake from Mounties saw a scrum packed with 4 minutes on the clock and the Cutters played brave and got the result when they kicked on the first tackle from the scrum and got the bounce for former Raider Eli Roberts to cross and make it 24-20.
From the restart the Cutters let the pressure off when they knocked on while trying to spread the ball. Mounties tried hard in the final minutes to score again as did the home team but in the end the clock won out and Mounties emerged with the 24-20 victory to cement a top four position in the 2015 VB NSW Cup.
Mounties 24 (S Mills, B Lee, M Cornish, M Nicholls, J Hawkins tries; Cornish 2 goals) defeated Illawarra Cutters 20 (J Vaivai, K Brennan, B Wallace, E Roberts tries; Wallace 2 goals)
Next week Mounties VB NSW Cup play at home at Aubrey Keech for the first time in 10 weeks when they take on the Wests Tigers. The Ron Massey Cup take on Auburn at home while the Shield travel to the Northern Beaches to play Peninsula.