NSW Cup Round 26 Match Report vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Ricky Newell

Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles secured their spot in the NSW Cup Finals with a strong 32-18 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Accor Stadium today.

The Sea Eagles ran in six tries to four to fight back from an 18-10 deficit at half-time to qualify for their first finals berth since the 2015 season. 

Two tries in the first ten minutes of the second half showed just how much the Sea Eagles wanted the win, ultimately setting them up to take control of the match after taking the lead for the first time in the 41st minute. Two tries in five minutes at the hour mark for Jake Toby and Ben Condon cemented the victory.

Blacktown were bolstered with the first-grade experience of Josh Schuster at five-eighth alongside halfback Jamie Humphreys.

Schuster had a massive impact, finishing with three try assists to go along with a 40/20 kick in a strong performance.

Winger Clayton Faulalo took his tryscoring tally for the season to 29 with two tries, making him the first player since the 2016 NSW Cup season to score that amount. 

Dean Matterson, James Uesele, Nathaniel Roache and Zac Fulton were also late additions. The team were without their captain, Gordon Chan Kum Tong ahead of his NRL debut for the Sea Eagles.

The Bulldogs opened the scoring in the sixth minute after prop Kurtis Morrin crashed past a defender to score next to the post. Centre Jonathan Sua converted for an early 6-0 lead.  

The home side crossed again six minutes later down the left edge through fullback Khaled Rajab after he found a gap in the defence. Sua converted to take the lead to 12-0. 

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The Sea Eagles hit back with a try in the 17th minute through Zac Fulton after a handful of sets in the opposition’s territory. The second-rower ran hard off a pass from the ruck and spun out of a tackle to ground the ball on the line. Humphreys converted for a 12-6 scoreline.  

Blacktown prop Austin Dias went agonizingly close to scoring the side’s second try six minutes later after being held up at the line on the last tackle. Second-rower Samuela Fainu chased hard and leapt into the air to bat the ball back, landing in the hands of Dias who fought until the tackle was called. 

Sea Eagles’ Faulalo tip-toed down the sideline and pushed past the chasing defenders to score his 28th try of the season in the 24th minute. Blacktown’s 2022 Players’ Player of the Year, Jake Toby, ran hard at the line and threw a well-timed pass to set the winger up with just enough space to get the ball down, bringing the score to 12-10. 

Bulldogs forward Franklin Pele found a gap in the defence and scored under the posts with a strong run four minutes before halftime. Sua converted to give his side an eight-point lead at the break.  

The Sea Eagles came out the gates flying in the second half with a try for forward Morgan Boyle after just one minute. Schuster was instrumental in the try, breaking through the defence at the halfway line and sending Boyle over with a simple pass to beat the fullback. Humphreys converted from in front for an 18-16 scoreline. 

The tryscoring sensation in the 2023 NSW Cup season was in again as Faulalo crossed for his second try of the day in the 47th minute. Similar to the first, Toby was involved with a phenomenal cut-out pass to the winger, who used his pace to beat the defenders to score in the corner, giving his side a 20-18 lead.  

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Blacktown were pushing for more points after being denied two times in a matter of minutes. Faulalo was heavily involved with the attack in the 59th minute, chasing hard on a kick and leaping over the opposition to grab the ball. The winger flicked the ball infield to Fainu who put in a perfectly placed grubber kick, sitting in goal and ultimately forcing a drop-out.  

The pressure finally broke and the Sea Eagles had their fifth try two minutes later. Toby got himself on the scoresheet after a simple pass from Schuster freed up enough space for the fullback, with his speed getting him over the line untouched. Humphreys converted to take the lead to 26-18.  

Blacktown prop Ben Condon dived under the posts for a well-deserved try in the 67th minute. Schuster had his hand in the lead up to the try as well as setting it up, kicking a 40/20 to get his side in position before handing off the final pass to Condon. Humphreys converted from in front for a 32-18 scoreline. 

The home side grabbed a consolation try through winger Harry Hayes in the 75th minute, with the siren eventually sounding for fulltime. The Sea Eagles claimed the two competition points with a final scoreline of 32-22, sending them to the finals. 

Blacktown now awaits results in this afternoon’s NSW Cup fixture between the Bears and the Raiders to determine who they face in Week One of the finals at North Sydney Oval on Saturday, September 2.