Cessnock Book Place in Coalfields Clash
The Cessnock Goannas have eliminated Western Suburbs from the Tooheys Cup premiership race after a come from behind 34 - 22 Preliminary Final win in front of a parochial Coalfields crowd of more than 3000 at Kurri Kurri's Sylvester's Sportsground.
In a performance that will have the Maitland Pickers looking over their shoulders the Goannas trailed early with Western Suburbs' star centre David Pangai scoring a brace within the opening 12 minutes but they rebounded with authority and doiminated for much of the remainder of the game.
Man mountain, Adam Tearle got the Goannas on the scoreboard in the 15th minute with a barnstorming effort from close range but they soon gave the points back when Pangai set up Steve Gordon down the right hand side to extend the lead back out to 12 points 15 minutes before half time. That was the spark that Cessnock needed most as they dominated the Rosellas with and without the ball in hand. Their defence become desperate and at times ferocious and they started to work the big Wests forwards over around the ruck through young boom hooker Tyler Sullivan and replacement Matt Marshall. They were rewarded for their effort in the 37th minute through representative back rower Alec Fata and with a successful penalty goal to Joby Patten on the stroke of half time the margin was all of a sudden cut to just 4 points.
The break did nothing to thwart the momentum the 'Nocks' gained in the later stages of the first half as they picked up from where they left off. Matt Marshall dived over from close range to hand Cessnock the lead for the first time...a lead that was never forfeited.
When Chris Pyne flew down the left hand side and kicked in field with pin point accuracy to find a leaping Luke Gardner to score the Goannas led by 6. The impending conversion would just about see the Rosellas fly the coup. Patten left it hanging out to the right and the Rosellas were still in with a fight with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Pangai was in the thick of it again as he sent Steve Gordon down the sideline. The chasers forced Gordon to kick which found Nathan Hinton supporting back in the middle of the park who collected the gift to score adjacent to the uprights. Todd Hurrell returned the favour to Patten as he missed the relatively simple conversion to leave Cessnock in front by 2 points with just 10 minutes to go.
Chris Pyne showed why he was the 2010 Newcastle Leagues Club Leading Tryscorer of the Year as he took a slight chance to dive over in the corner to counteract the Hinton try just 3 minutes earlier. Joby Patten faced a much tougher task from almost against the fence to extend the Goannas lead to 8 points and into the comfort zone as the clock ticked away. He was more than up to the task as he slotted the conversion home sending the crowd into raptures. Jacob Jenkinson scored with just 2 minutes left to seal the 34 - 22 win giving the Goannas a chance to finally atone for last year's controversial defeat at the hands of Wyong.
The win sets up an enthralling battle between the two Coalfields clubs at No 1 Sportsground on Sunday which will be played out before one of the biggest crowds seen in Newcastle Rugby League in years.
Wyong booked their place in the Presidents Cup finale after a marathon golden point win over Maitland and Central Newcastle will do battle with Maitland in the Reserve Grade decider after a gutsy 22 points to 14 win over Macquarie.