NSW Cup Semi-Final Match Report vs Raiders

by Ricky Newell

Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles season has ended following a 24-22 defeat to the Canberra Raiders at North Sydney Oval in Week One of the NSW Cup Finals on Saturday.

The Sea Eagles fought back from a 12-6 deficit at half-time and went out to a 22-12 lead with a little over 20 minutes to play thanks to two tries apiece from Jacob Sykes and Kaeo Weekes.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the valiant Sea Eagles side as Canberra fought back with tries in the 63rd and 69th minute to claim a victory.

Cooper Johns and Josh Schuster lined up alongside each other in the halves for the second consecutive week, pushing Latu Fainu out to the centres for his first appearance in the position following eight appearances in the halves.

Dean Matterson backed up to play for the side after playing 24 minutes in Friday’s  54-12 victory over the Tigers in the NRL.

© Bryden Sharp Photography

The Raiders opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a try for forward Peter Hola next to the right post. Fullback Chevy Stewart converted for an early 6-0 lead.

Canberra grabbed their second five minutes later with a phenomenal diving effort in the right corner from winger James Schiller, pushing their lead out to ten points.

Blacktown were lucky not to concede a third try in the 17th minute after a full-field effort from Raiders’ Schiller was cut short. The winger latched onto the ball metres out from his own line and sprinted downfield with his sights set on the try. Thankfully Jake Toby, who was on the opposite wing, was able to cut him down metres out from the tryline and force an error with a desperate tackle.

The Sea Eagles kicked into action and were unlucky not to grab a try after a long-range effort in the 23rd minute. Schuster threw a perfect cut-out pass to Fainu who weaved between the defenders to find a gap. The centre popped a pass out to winger Clayton Faulalo who then kicked infield for Weekes only to be beaten for the ball.

© Bryden Sharp Photography

Canberra capitalised on a missed kick to touch from Blacktown and pushed downfield to find themselves ten metres out. After being awarded a penalty, they chose to take the shot at two points which was converted by Stewart for a 12-0 scoreline.

Blacktown were denied of another try with eight minutes to play in the half as the Raiders continued to hold on. After a good shift to the left edge, Fainu had the ball 15 metres out from the line and backed himself. He tucked his ears back and tried to dive in the corner but unfortunately had the ball knocked out of his hands in the process. During the attempt, he took a knock to the head and was taken from the field with a HIA as both sides began to lose their cool.

 The Sea Eagles scored on the stroke of half-time after the ball bounced in their favour, resulting in a try for forward Jacob Sykes. Johns ran the ball on the last tackle and poked a grubber kick towards the in-goal area, deflecting off several players. Lock Dean Matterson and Sykes chased, with the latter getting hands on the ball for the try. Utility Jamie Humphreys converted to take the score to 12-6 at the break.

Blacktown carried the momentum into the second half and scored after five minutes as Sykes bagged his second of the afternoon. Schuster threw a perfectly timed short ball to the forward at the ten-metre line and he pushed past the defender’s tackles to ground the ball on the line. Humphreys converted to level the scores at 12-all.

The Sea Eagles hit the lead for the first time in the match with a try for Weekes in the 54th minute, with Schuster playing a big part in setting the play up. The five-eighth drifted wide on the last tackle and popped a ball back on the inside to Weekes who steamrolled over the opposing fullback to ground the ball. Humphreys converted for an 18-12 lead.

© Bryden Sharp Photography

The momentum shifted completely in favour of Blacktown as Weekes crossed for his second try five minutes after his first. Schuster found Toby 15 metres out from the line and the winger pushed through to break through the defence. After dragging in the opposing winger, he popped a pass out to Weekes who used his pace to dive over in the corner, taking the score out to 22-12.

Canberra wasn’t going to back down and fought back into the match as Schiller crossed for his second try in the 64th minute. The winger caught the ball 25 metres out from the line after a short drop-out and managed to get past five defenders to score. Stewart converted to cut the deficit back to four points.

The Raiders hit the lead with just over ten minutes to play with a long-range effort as Stewart crossed for his side fourth try. Winger Xavier Savage broke down the sideline and finished the play off with a simple pass to Stewart who raced away for the try next to the posts. He converted his own try for a 24-22 lead.

Blacktown went agonisingly close to re-taking the lead with three minutes to play. Schuster took on the line after assessing his options and broke through the defence. With a player on him, he threw a no-look flick pass to prop Ben Condon who was in support. Despite his best efforts, he was unfortunately stopped short of the line and the referee deemed the play a double movement, resulting in a penalty for the Raiders.

The Sea Eagles had one final chance to save their season after the Raiders kicked the ball dead, resulting in a seven-tackle set. Despite this, a silly pass resulted in a turnover and Canberra ran the time down to claim a two-point victory.

© Bryden Sharp Photography