The Newcastle Rebels held off a late comeback from the Illawarra Steelers to secure a 26-22 victory in the Tri Series under-20 Steel City Challenge on Sunday.
Western Suburbs Rosellas winger Pat Achurch opened the scoring after he was on the receiving end of a beautiful flick pass from his centre Callum Briggs (Macquarie Scorpions) to put the Rebels 4-0 up after 12 minutes.
Some second phase play from Newcastle got them rolling down field and Max Buderus (Western Suburbs) kicked cross field for Sam Smith (Lakes United), who plucked it out of the air and touched down in the corner.
Buderus successfully converted and the Rebels enjoyed an early 10-0.
Lakes United’s Ryan Potts was one of Newcastle’s best and some crafty dummy-half running got his side into attacking field position.
Soon after, Cessnock’s Joe Barber was able to capitalise by beating several defenders and crashing over in the 21st minute.
Soon after, the Steelers recorded their first try through Jye Patterson, who was able to use his pace to beat his opposite man on the right-hand side of the field.
Josh Martin’s conversion was unsuccessful, and the Rebels went into the break with a handy 20-4 lead.
Newcastle was first on the board in the second period after prop Carlin Pettit (South Newcastle) showed the footwork of a winger, tiptoeing around several defenders before crashing over to score. Buderus converted to push the Rebels’ advantage out to 26-4 and make it a long road back for Illawarra.
Momentum started to swing in the Steelers favour after their halves were able to build pressure off the back of repeat sets and it was Tully Mackay who capitalised.
The back-up dummy-half caught defenders napping off the back of a quick play-the-ball and after Martin converted, the Steelers trailed 26-10.
Jye Patterson was one of Illawarra’s best and he was able to strip the Rebels for numbers and throw a crisp cut-out ball for Jacob Masters who went over in the corner.
Martin nailed it from the sideline and the home side was back in it at 26-16.
In the 59th minute, Steelers five-eighth Max Devlin stepped up and threw a 20m pass to Jace Barnes who was able to get a brilliant flick pass away to Bailey Simmons who crossed in the corner.
Martin continued his success with the boot and brought his team within striking distance at 26-22.
Suddenly, the crowd started to come to life as the Steelers looked every chance of snatching an unlikely victory.
With time running out, Braith Lawrence-Foy crashed over the line although the Rebels defence held strong and he was unable to ground the ball.
Only minutes later, the Steelers attacked the left edge and looked to have scored, although the ball was called forward and the Rebels were crowned 26-22 winners.
Newcastle will next face Canberra at the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday 26 June.
- by Andrew McEnallay (NSWRL)