The Wentworthville Magpies have put in a dominant second-half display against the second-placed Illawarra Cutters, running out 19-16 winners at Ringrose Park on Sunday Afternoon.
The Cutters scored two unanswered tries in the opening 20 minutes of the game, and despite a 10-0 lead at half-time, the Magpies proved too strong in the second 40 with three of their own early in the half, whilst continuously holding out the Cutters with some brilliant goal-line defence. Honeti Tuha was a shining light for the home side, putting in a solo 90-metre try and also pulling off two outstanding try saving tackles that seemed to spark the comeback for the Magpies.
The opening exchanges were fiercely fought from both sides, but the Cutters managed to draw first blood after the ball ricocheted into the arms of flying winger Tom Carr, who found open space to put Tyrone Mccarthy over to claim an early lead within the opening five minutes of the game.
Wentworthville looked to earn themselves a quick reply with a string of repeat sets on the visitors' line, however failing to capitalise on their chances with an eventual knock on.
The missed chance proved costly for the home side, with opposite winger Kane Brennan showing great speed down the sideline to evade a host of defenders, before finding fullback Sam Clune who crossed for their second try of the afternoon. Shaun Nona failed to convert and the score remained 8-0 just under the quarter hour mark.
A classy back line movement again saw Brennan fly down the left-hand touch line looking all but certain to score, only for fullback Honeti Tuha to pull of a remarkable try saving tackle right on the line to hold out a third unanswered Cutters try.
Moments later, Nona thought he scored his team's third as he reached out to plant the ball down, only for the referee to have rulled that he knocked the ball on over the line.
It didn’t take long for Illawarra to threaten the Magpies' defence again with Levi Dodd crashing over in the right hand corner, only to be denied by a second trysaving tackle from Tuha who was inspiring his team with some outstanding defensive efforts.
Despite some dominant attacking raids from the second place Cutters, Wentworthville continued to impress with their committed goal line defence, holding them to just two tries and a 10-0 lead at half-time.
Wentworthville started the second half prominently with a great run from Tuha and a penalty putting them in great field position to finally claim their first points of the afternoon. Moments later, a floating cut out pass found winger Scott Schulte who offloaded to back rower Cody Nelson who crossed in the right hand corner.
It didn’t take long for Wentworthville to fire again with a second try shortly after, with a burst down the short side saw Nick Kassis cross under the posts to set the score at 10 all just after the 50 minute mark.
Honeti Tuha was proving to be unstoppable throughout the entire game, inspiring his team with a brilliant solo effort - running 90 metres and evading the fullback to grasp the lead and cross for their third unanswered try of the second half.
With just 10 minutes to go in the brutal contest, the Magpies were holding on to a lead of just one converted try with the Cutters continuously threatening their line with a host of attacking raids. Despite their chances, Magpies winger Jake Butler-Fleming pounced on a loose ball and sprinted 50 metres to completely change the momentum of the game.
A late field goal to Cameron King and penalty goal from Dylan Izzard proved to be the icing on the cake for the home side despite a late try to cutters centre Levi Dodd, with the Magpies running out 19-16 winners over second place Illawarra Cutters in one of the upsets of the season.
Wentworthville Magpies 19 (C Nelson, N Kassis, H Tuha tries; D Izzard 3 goals; C King field goal)
Illawarra Cutters 16 (T McCarthy, S Clune, L Dodd tries; S Nona 2 goals)