By Jake Bull
The Illawarra Cutters held on for a hard-fought 30-22 victory over the Wentworthville Magpies at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
Despite a number of changes that saw plenty of experience leave the side, the young Cutters players stepped up and showed good signs for the back-end of the season.
It was a dream start for the home side in the eighth minute when one of the late inclusions, Eli Roberts, caught a Shannon Crook cross-field kick and planted the ball out wide for a 4-0 lead.
Six minutes later Illawarra were in again when Blake Wallace burrowed his way over under the posts.
Crook added the extras for a good start and a 10-0 lead.
It was all the Cutters early on and in the 18th minute they had their third try.
A break down the left side of the field ended with winger Kayne Brennan scoring in the corner.
Crook converted the try to push the lead out to 16-0.
It was all falling into place for Illawarra and in the 25th minute centre Junior Vaivai intercepted a Magpies pass and streaked away to score for a 20-0 lead.
It was not until the 29th minute that the visitors made an imprint on the scoreboard but they were able to on this occasion through Vai Toutai.
Former Cutter Beau Henry added the two points to bring the game to 20-6.
Another Wentworthville try with five minutes to play in the first half by Ryan Matterson, along with a Henry conversion, made the break a little tenser as it read 20-12 to the home side.
The half-time break seemed to shift the momentum back to the Cutters and in the 46th minute they had their fifth try of the game courtesy of backrower Chris Lewis.
The try pushing the lead out to two converted tries as the score had Illawarra up 24-12.
With just under 20 minutes to play in the game, the Magpies found a spark and were able to score in the corner via Halauafu Lavaka as the game got tense again at 24-16.
Another try for the visitors in the 71st minute by Lavaka and conversion by Beau Henry had the crowd on edge as the lead was cut to just two points at 24-22.
However, the home side weren’t going to be denied and in the 75th minute Blake Wallace dummied and stepped the fullback to score his second and the match winner.
He converted his own try as the Cutters came away with the 30-22 win.
Illawarra Cutters 30. Tries: Wallace (2), Roberts, Brennan, Vaivai, Lewis. Goals: Crook (2/3), Wallace (1/3).
Wentworthville Magpies 22. Tries: Lavaka (2), Toutai, Matterson. Goals: Henry (3/4).