By Nick Janzen (NSWRL.com.au)
The Illawarra Cutters were 24-12 winners over the Wentworthville Magpies at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
The Cutters were far from clinical but proved a tad too dangerous with the ball in hand for the visitors in performances that would have far from satisfied coaches from either side.
Backed by a controlling effort from their halfback Drew Hutchison as well as solid performances from Shannon Wakeman and Siliva Havili, the Cutters had too much firepower for the Magpies who appear to be feeling the flow-on impact of the Parramatta Eels’ salary-cap dramas.
The Magpies opened up the scoring in the sixth minute of the match when Cameron King found a gaping hole in the Cutters’ defence one off the ruck on the fifth tackle.
King burst through a gap left by lazy ‘A’ defenders to cross next to the posts. Dylan Izzard’s conversion turned four points into six.
A late-tackle penalty awarded against Cutter Dunamis Lui on Izzard saw the lead stretch to eight points after 12 minutes.
The home side finally got on the board after 25 minutes of the first half, when they converted an opportunity on the back of a right-to-left shift.
Drew Hutchison, Adam Quinlan and Taane Milne were instrumental, freeing up Tom Carr to throw himself at the line. A cracking conversion from Mitch Porter on the right-hand touchline cut the deficit to two.
The Cutters struck the lead with nine minutes to go in the first half when a scheming run out of dummy half by Havili found Josh McCrone who threw a short ball to Chris Lewis to run 30 metres to score his first try of the season and give his side a two-point lead.
Wenty, however, recaptured the lead just two minutes before halftime when their own backline showed its capabilities.
A sharp right-to-left backline movement saw key men Izzard, King and fullback Honeti Tuha, chime in to put Bureta Faraimo over to score.
Milne got the home side back into the lead eight minutes into the second half following some great lead-up work from Hutchison and Quinlan.
Following a short ball that put the fullback into the Magpies’ 20-metre zone, Milne picked up the ball from dummy half, showed the ball to his left and proved too big and strong from close range for the Magpies’ defence.
Porter’s conversion took the score to 16-12 in the Cutters’ favour.
Milne collected a double following some more great hands on the right side of the field that almost saw Quinlan cross had it not been for a terrific try-saving tackle from Magpies prop Alex Twal.
Milne collected the ball once against from dummy half, intelligently running diagonally towards the sideline to cross in the corner and take the home side’s lead to 20-12.
The Cutters closed-out the match with six minutes remaining, with a short ball on the left from Shaun Nona to Dumanis Lui sealing the home side’s victory.
Illawarra Cutters 24. Tries: Milne (2), Lewis, Carr, Lui. Goals: Porter (2/5).
Wentworthville Magpies 12. Tries: King, Faraimo. Goals: Izzard (2/2).