Minor premiers eliminated in preliminary final

Rugby League –

The Wyong Roos have suffered a shock exit from the Newcastle Tooheys Cup, after going down 28-24 against South Newcastle in the preliminary final.

Souths began with a blitzkrieg, playing fast, winning tackles and forcing the Roos to retreat to their goal line, before a raid down Wyong’s right side resulted in the first points of the game.

Looking to equalise, the Roos were hindered by their unusually uncoordinated attackers, before Winger, Cody Boyle, was able to run a spiralled Luke Sharpe long pass into the in-goal untouched.

Sharpe’s pass was judged to have been forward, with play recalled.

An unsecured high kick resulted in the Lions’ second points of the match following a Blake Campbell/Jason Keelan combination, putting them up 10-nil.

Wyong’s frustrations continued to mount when a dropped ball ended a well-executed right side attack prematurely, before an unbothered Lions produced the try of the match, courtesy of a quick-fire exchange that allowed Jarryd Flanagan a clean run down the western touchline, again converted by Keelan.

Down but not out, the Roos picked up their game from that point on, getting their first points on the board after capitalising off a shoulder charge penalty from within the Lions’ 20m line.

Heading into halftime down 16-4, a recomposed Roos resumed play looking more like this year’s Minor Premiers.

Conceding another penalty on their 40m line, the Lions failed to adjust accordingly to a Mitch Williams bait and switch that saw him race over the line.

A Josh Mantellato conversion saw the Roos lessen their deficit, and while still 6 points down, it was indisputable that they’d taken over the game’s momentum.

A Jack Burraston/Mantellato combination levelled the score not five minutes later, but that was when the Lions made a surge, utilising their offloads and phase play that had troubled Wyong early in the piece.

Despite their opposition’s resurgence, a Mantellato penalty goal in the 58th minute was able to push the Roos into the lead for the first time in the match, but a Lions’ penalty saw that quickly undone, with a Dylan Lucas try and Keelan conversion putting Souths back on top 22-18.

Methodically stealing metres from their opponents, some Williams’ magic pulled another reversal of fortune, when a face ball he threw to Jake Lewis hit the line and Mantellato converted to put Wyong up 24-22.

With the match winding down, it was do or die for both sides as the Roos worked their way back into Lions’ territory, but when a Lachlan Hanneghan kick was caught within the in-goal, the Lions were able to regain control.

With just enough time left for two tackle sets each, Souths advanced into Wyong real estate.

The Lions tested Wyong’s middle and right edge, then the middle again, before shifting the ball left.

Roos’ defenders appeared to have resolved the threat, but as the tackle was affected on Lucas, the ball was offloaded to the outside amid strong claims of a forward pass.

Flanagan got his hands on the ball and grounded it in the in-goal as he was forced toward the touchline.

The match was over in that split second.

Keelan converted from the sideline.

Wyong tried to salvage a last gasp win but couldn’t pull off the miracle play.

Disappointed with the result but proud of the boys’ efforts, Player/Coach Mitch Williams said the game was a thriller.

“The game had everything any connoisseur could want.

“The lead changed four times and in the end the result came down to just a moment or two.”

Souths now move on to face Cessnock in the grand final.

Dilon Luke

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