For the second time in the opening three weeks, a field goal has sealed a remarkable result for the Wyong Roos, who defeated the Western Suburbs Magpies 23-22 having trailed for much of the game’s duration.
A five-star showing from experienced halfback Josh Drinkwater was not enough to see the Magpies home, with hooker Kurt Baptiste making his mark in the second half to engineer an incredible comeback.
Wyong opened the afternoon’s scoring with just seven minutes of play gone, when noted sharp-shooter Josh Mantellato converted a penalty goal to give the visitors a two-point advantage.
The lead was short lived though as the Magpies dived in for the match’s first try, courtesy of centre Toni Tali in the 16th minute.
Tali’s diving effort to retrieve a deft Drinkwater grubber saw the referee point to the spot, and the halfback converted from wide out to see the score to 6-2.
The Magpies continued to search for more points, and eventually found a second try when Drinkwater’s sleight-of-hand sent captain Luke Garner in to score.
Again, Drinkwater made no mistake from the kicking tee as he extended the side’s lead to 10 points after 30 minutes gone.
Late pressure as the half-time siren loomed was all too telling on the Roos’ defence when Drinkwater capped a near-perfect first 40 minutes for the hosts – a looping cut-out pass setting winger Mahe Fonua en route to the try line.
The barnstorming outside back collected the inch-perfect pass to race 30 metres to score the side’s third try of the first-half, ensuring the Magpies returned to the sheds with an 18-2 advantage at the break.
The words of coach Rip Taylor still ringing in their ears, the Roos returned in the second-half, full of vigour and ready to mount a comeback.
Two tries in an eight-minute window to start the second period – scored by Matt Ikavalu and Kurt Baptiste, respectively – had the visitors back within six points, the Magpies holding a slender 18-12 lead.
Wyong winger Chris Centrone soon after touched down for the Roos’ third, though Mantellato’s attempt to tie the game at 18-apiece was waved away.
Looking shaky having surrendered their 16-point half-time lead, the Magpies found stability when Garner bullied his way over the line for his second try of the match.
Drinkwater’s ensuing conversion attempt sailed wide, and again Wests shot out to a six-point, 22-16 front with 15 minutes to play.
The sides continued to trade blows as the match wore into the final five minutes, but some exceptional work from Eloni Vunakece saw the visitors come from behind. Taking the ball from Mitch Williams on the Magpies’ line, Vunakece beat Leighton Tali to crash over for four points, with Mantellato levelling scores up with the conversion.
As the full-time siren drew nearer and a draw looked likely, an untimely error from Fonua gave the Roos valuable possession. It was Vunakece, again who set Rip Taylor’s men up with a quick play-the-ball, Cornish making no mistakes in slotting a high-pressure field goal at the death. It earned Wyong their second one-point win of the season, with 23-22 the final score.
Wyong Roos 23 (M Ikavalu, K Baptiste, C Centrone, E Vunakece tries; J Mantellato 3 goals; M Cornish field goal) def Western Suburbs Magpies 22 (L Garner 2, L Tali, M Fonua tries; J Drinkwater 3 goals)