Around the pitch | Junior Representative Playoff Finals
The opening week of the NSWRL Junior Reps Finals Series saw plenty of exciting action and results.
Sharks dominate victory over eels
The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have booked their place in the semi-finals of the Harold Matthews Cup after an impressive 28-4 win over Parramatta Eels at St Marys Leagues Stadium.
The Sharks were led admirably into the park by their group of forwards, including prop Max Araullo, back rower Jasper Catton and lock Alex Challenor, while fullback and captain Chevy Stewart had a good game at the back.
The Sharks needed just a minute to open the scoring thanks to a powerful drive from prop Araullo. Five-eighth Ashton Simmonds kicked in shortly after which was knocked down into the net by the Parramatta defense and center Jayze Tuigamala pounced on the remains to score. Stewart clinched the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
A 60-yard run from Stewart put his team on the attack and Challenor was quick to take advantage of the situation. The Sharks lock charged on a fictitious half pass from Blake Woodger after spotting some space inside and charged towards the line to smash past the posts. Stewart landed the conversion to extend the lead to 12-0.
The Eels had their chances in the first 40 minutes but failed to capitalize. Lock Kobi Hurford went close after a fine through ball from five-eighth Blaize Talagi but sadly lost possession when tackled near the line.
Things went from bad to worse for Parramatta when winger Luke Maroun left the field after showing great desperation in defense to stop an attacking raid. It wasn’t long before the Sharks had another crack after Catton sparked a big run that was backed up by Challenor.
The very next play, halfback Bryce Sait fired a pass for winger Richard Whalebone to back inside and past the defense to score. Stewart couldn’t land the sideline conversion, but the Sharks were well in control at 16-0.
The Eels needed something special to get them excited and center Michael Gabrael provided that with arguably the try of the game. Latching on to a pass from half-back Lorenzo Talataina from 60 yards out, the Eels cross swept away a tackle from Albert Litisoni before lifting Stewart on his way to the line to give them some hope at 16-4 .
The Sharks had other ideas and well-deserved tries for Catton and Araullo put the exclamation mark on an impressive performance and left them just one Grand Final victory away.
Bulldogs rally for thrilling win over Tigers
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs winger Jordi Mazzone scored a superb try to lead his side to an SG Ball Cup semi-final after a hard-fought 16-14 win over Balmain Tigers at St Marys Leagues Stadium.
The Bulldogs showed plenty of fighting to rally from a 10-0 deficit midway through the first half, then even more determination to defend their line as a brave Tigers side fought back until the very end.
The game was finally decided midway through the second half when Bulldogs halfback and captain Joseph O’Neill set up a crossfield that sat well for Mazzone to come out of the air and sprint away. defense to score.
The Bulldogs had reached the final series in sixth position and got off to a slow start after Tigers No. 7 Jonathan Ibrahim put back rower Leo Nasio on the line with a nice short ball to take a 4- 0.
The Tigres backed up that effort shortly after when fifth-eighth Emmanuel Di Bartolo fired a well-timed cut pass for winger Joseph Delle to score in the corner. Prop Tony Sukkar landed the sideline conversion and the Tigers were in control at 10-0.
The Bulldogs needed a spark and fullback Joash Papalii – who had already made a bold and impressive run down the touchline – answered the call when he moved to dummy half with Braye Porter leaving the bench to support the functions at the rear.
Porter did well to deprive the Tigers of one-on-one possession as they carried the ball down their own line just before half-time and Papalii gave his side some hope after fought his way from the fictional half to close the margin at 10-4.
It was Papalii again who stood up when play resumed after throwing another dash off the dummy to grab his second try of the game. Jonathan Sua made no mistake with the conversion and the scores again stuck at 10 everywhere.
Mazzone then had Bulldogs fans on the ground cheering after his long-range effort with Sua adding the extras for a 16-10 lead.
The Tigers scored their own impressive try after Di Bartolo freed Delle on the touchline and the winger ignored Porter in defense before edging past Mazzone to score. Sukkar failed to clinch the difficult conversion from the touchline to leave the score at 16-14.
This set up a frantic final 10 minutes with both teams having their scoring opportunities, but it was the Bulldogs who held on to advance to the semi-finals next week.