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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Cessnock’s Billy Gilbert sets up Rebels’ Tri Series victory

The Newcastle Rebels took out the 2021 Tri Series Steel City Challenge with a comfortable 36-4 victory over the Illawarra Steelers at Collegians Sporting Complex on Sunday.

Despite some late changes to the original squad, the Novocastrians, coached by Aaron Watts, flew out of the blocks to cross the tryline on three occasions in the first quarter of the contest.

And, despite their opposition stemming the flow of points on approach to half-time, Newcastle was ultimately able to run away with a 32-point win.

The opening try came from a last-tackle kick to the right corner by halfback AJ Davis (Cessnock) as the football missed the contest and bounced into the hands of Maitland’s James Bradley to put the ball down.

Just two minutes later, Newcastle found itself in attacking range again with Davis threatening close to the line before laying on a flat, cut-out pass onto the chest of Central Newcastle fullback Cam Anderson to reach double figures on the scoreboard for the Rebels.

Davis landed his second conversion of the afternoon for a 12-0 lead.

From the ensuing kick-off, the Rebels dominated the middle-third to enter Illawarra’s red zone yet again.

Macquarie back-rower Luke Higgins was rewarded with a try as a result when he barged over beneath the sticks from a Billy Gilbert (Cessnock) pass out of dummy-half.

Newcastle looked on track to score for a fourth time only moments after their third as Anderson sliced through the line on the left touchline before an error on the following tackle.

But, the Steelers still couldn’t capitalise in the immediate set.

Illawarra managed to halt the Rebels’ point-scoring momentum for the next 10-minute period until Central Newcastle five-eighth Dylan Phythian ran a perfect line to score after latching onto an offload by Kurri Kurri’s Mitchell Cullen, who evaded a handful of would-be tacklers in the build-up.

The men in red eventually produced their first points of the match with five minutes remaining before the break.

Second-rower Tom Angel ran onto a short ball from Illawarra pivot Justin Rodrigues, diving over the line at the right post before centre Scott Galeano hooked the conversion attempt across the face of goal.

The Rebels had the final opportunity for points when a penalty was awarded at the end of the half, and Davis struck the ball well from 44 metres to give his side a 26-4 advantage at the break.

The early exchanges of the second stanza weren’t as eventful compared to the first, as both sides traded errors and struggled to find the ascendancy.

With just over 10 minutes left in the contest, Rebels hooker Gilbert scooped possession from the play-the-ball only metres from the line and cut through a retreating Illawarra defence to score.

Davis nailed the kick at goal, taking the lead to 32-4.

While the result was already secured for Newcastle, the Rebels made the most of another attacking chance with two long balls by Davis and Cullen to find Joe Woodbury (Cessnock) in open space for the final try of the afternoon, capping off a dominant 36-4 win.

Man of the match went to a deserving Gilbert.

Newcastle will host Canberra at the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday 26 June.

  • by Tom Gibbs (NSWRL)

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