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REAL NRL: Goannas take sting out of Scorpions in thriller

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The Cessnock Goannas maintained their undefeated streak after accounting for the Macquarie Scorpions 40-30 in a Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) thriller at the weekend.

And, the club’s fifth consecutive victory in 2023 has set up a mouth-watering showdown with defending Denton Engineering Cup premiers Maitland Pickers in round six.

In a classic battle at Lyall Peacock Field on Saturday, the lead changed seven times in an entertaining fixture, which kept spectators on the edge of their seats.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

An under-strength Macquarie outfit appeared on top at 30-28 late in the showdown, however Cessnock stormed home to grab two tries and the competition points.

“I’m a bit lost for words,” Goannas skipper Harry Siejka told the Newcastle Weekly.

“The last couple of times we’ve played them, it’s been a tit-for-tat sort of game.

“The Scorpions are a good side, although they had some cattle out [today].

“I’m sure they’ll improve when everyone’s on deck again.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“But, I thought we were pretty gritty hanging in there, I’m really pleased with that.

“From one to 17, everyone played a role.

“Although it wasn’t without hiccups, we have a couple of boys busted.

“At the end of the day, it was a good hit-out for our next assignment.”

That task is the mighty Pickers, the 2022 Real NRL champions and NSW President’s Cup titleholders.

“Maitland’s the benchmark, they have been for the past three or four years in any type of comp they’ve played in,” said Siejka, who recently extended his contract with Cessnock.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge.

“It will be a good test as to where we’re at as a football team.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“[Today] in patches, we were really impressive.

“However, we’re still giving away a lot of cheap ball.”

Siejka admitted the recruitment of hooker Luke Huth and centre Brayden Musgrove had made a big difference in the Goannas’ camp.

“They’ve added so much coming into the squad,” he said.

“And, even guys like Chris Slater-Raptis, Lucas Thomson and Matt Filipo, who’ve arrived from Sydney, have made their marks with their experience.

“They’re great players for the side, not only on the field but off the paddock as well.

“They bring a lot of good attributes to training; we’re very lucky to have them.

“It’s starting to show in our football now that we’re a pretty dangerous team whenever we have everyone available.”

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Cessnock opened its account, 4-0, in the third minute when winger Honeti Tuha dived on a deft Sam Clune kick.

But, Macquarie replied almost immediately after five-eighth Jayden Wright took on the defence and sliced through. He added the extras for a 6-4 lead.

In the 16th minute, following a scrum, the Scorpions spun it out along the backline and winger Kodi Crowther touched down. Wright made no mistake and extended the margin to 12-4.

A sensational individual try to fullback Harry O’Brien, and Clune goal, allowed the Goannas to trail 12-10.

They then surged ahead 14-12 when Musgrove popped a brilliant pass to an unmarked Josh Charles on the wing.

However, Macquarie responded through Crowther again (35th), following great lead-up work by Matt Cooper and Bayden Searle, and centre Royce Geoffrey (39th), as well as two Wright conversions, to go into the break in front 24-14.

Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Cessnock re-entered the fray in sizzling fashion.

A Scorpions error enabled the Goannas to launch an attacking raid and O’Brien made them pay dearly to narrow the gap 24-18.

Then another Clune kick resulted in another Tuha four-pointer for a 24-22 scoreline.

His hat-trick, 10 minutes later, plus a Clune conversion, pushed them to the lead 28-24.

But, that was just an entrée of what was to come.

In the 67th minute, Macquarie turned the ball inside on the fifth tackle, giving winger Joe Woodbury a clear run to the line. Wright raised the flags to give the hosts some breathing space at 30-28.

Cessnock refused to lay down.

On the back of repeated sets, thanks to smart kicking by Siejka and Clune, prop Kori Barber scored near the uprights. Clune piloted the ball over to regain the ascendency 34-30.

It was that man Huth who sealed the 40-30 triumph with a try from dummy half, which Clune converted.

In other matches, the Western Suburbs Rosellas beat the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 26-6, South Newcastle Lions pipped Lakes United Seagulls 22-20, Maitland Pickers thumped Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 44-6, The Entrance Tigers proved too strong for the Northern Hawks 32-10 and the Wyong Roos had the bye.

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup

Round five results:

  • Cessnock Goannas d Macquarie Scorpions 40-30
  • Western Suburbs Rosellas d Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 26-6
  • South Newcastle Lions d Lakes United Seagulls 22-20
  • Maitland Pickers d Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 44-6
  • The Entrance Tigers d Northern Hawks 32-10
  • Bye: Wyong Roos

Round six draw:

Saturday 29 April

  • 3pm: Cessnock Goannas v Maitland Pickers (Cessnock Sports Ground)
  • 3pm: Lakes United Seagulls v Western Suburbs Rosellas (Cahill Oval)
  • 3pm: Macquarie Scorpions v Central Newcastle Butcher Boys (Lyall Peacock Field)
  • 3pm: South Newcastle Lions v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs (Townson Oval)

Sunday 30 April

  • 3pm: The Entrance Tigers v Wyong Roos (EDSACC Oval)
  • Bye: Northern Hawks

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