The Illawarra Steelers Harold Matthews kept their finals hopes alive by recording an emphatic 48-6 win over the Central Coast Roosters at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
Illawarra’s first attacking opportunity resulted in a try to winger Hayden Sutton in the sixth minute.
Four minutes later the Steelers were at it again through winger Jack Walsh to help his side to an 8-0 lead.
A mistake from the kick off handed the visitors territory and they capitalised when hooker Aaron Commins barging over from dummy half.
It was all the Steelers from there though with centre Mathew Feagai proving too strong for the Roosters to score.
In the shadows of half-time, front-rower Ollie Parrish scored to help the Steelers to a 20-6 lead at the break.
The Steelers had to wait just two minutes to score the first second half try when Feagai crossed for his second.
Skipper Connor Muhleisen scored next from dummy-half to hand his side a commanding 32-6 advantage.
Halfback Jayden Sullivan broke through the Central Coast defence next, who brilliantly passed to Aaron Schoupp who scored under the posts.
Late tries to lock Hamish Holland and Schoupp's second capped off the Steelers' 42-point win.
Muhleisen was proud of his teammate's performance.
"We had a big emphasis on energy with the ball and our defence which I think we did great at as it showed on the scoreboard," Muhleisen said.
"We’ve been working hard and as a unit we’ve come together and I think our communication was better.
"We wanted more momentum heading toward the back end of the season and we knew if we played our brand of football that no side will come close to us."
Coach Ben Linde echoed his skipper's comments.
"We stuck to what we’ve been training towards a lot better than what we have been, and that’s a positive. Another positive is we only conceded one try which I'll take any day of the week," Linde said.
"The big thing for me was the impact we were getting off the bench. We’re starting at a high level, and we’re lifting to a higher level, so that’s very encouraging."
The St George Dragons meanwhile suffered an unfortunate 18-14 loss to the North Sydney Bears last Sunday at TG Milner Field.
Two quick tries from Bears centre Lochlan Trimboli and five-eighth Jacob Preston within the first 11 minutes put the Dragons on the back foot.
While they responded midway through the first half through fullback Rodrick Ahoy, they failed to make another dent in the Bears' 12-6 half-time lead.
The Dragons went within two points of the Bears when Destiny Nuuasoa scored just one minute into the second half.
But the Bears quickly responded, and in the 48th minute it was hooker Nicholas Russell who helped put his side ahead by eight points.
Hooker Soakimi Folaumoeloa's try four minutes later put the Dragons within striking range again, but poor goal kicking from the try-scorer was telling in the final result.
Illawarra Steelers 48 (Aaron Schoupp 2, Hayden Sutton, Jack Walsh, Mathew Feagai, Ollie Parrish, Max Feagai, Connor Muhleisen, Hamish Holland tries, Aaron Schoupp 6 goals) defeated the Central Coast Roosters 6 (Aaron Commins try, Corey Fenning goal) at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
North Sydney 18 (Lochlan Trimboli, Jacob Preston, Nicholas Russell tries; Nicholas Russell 3 goals) defeated St George Dragons 14 (Rodrick Ahoy, Destiny Nuuasoa, Soakimi Folaumoeloa 1 goal) at TG Milner Field, Eastwood.
The Steelers SG Ball side were able to produce a big upset by beating Central Coast Roosters 36-6 at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
Illawarra were quick out of the blocks when centre Ethan Abou-Ghaida scored after eight minutes.
10 minutes later, Abou-Ghaida scored his second following handy lead up work from his teammates.
The Steelers kept their momentum going which proved too much for the Central Coast to handle 10 minutes later when winger Tyson Simpson scoring a brilliant try in the corner.
Fullback Jiye Ellis was on the end of a magic ball just before half-time to help his side to an 18-0 lead at the break.
While the Central Coast scored the first try of the second half, Simpson showed what a great finisher when he scored soon after.
Thereafter, Abou-Ghaida crossed for his hat-trick, Ellis grabbed a double and Matthew Delbanco rounded out the scoring for the eventual 30-point win.
Co-Captain Bailey Dickinson was proud of the Steelers' efforts.
"We did well to get in the grind and get the big win," he said. "I was stoked that we dug in, did it for each other and did really well."
Coach Shane Millard was happy with the result.
"I thought in the first half we were very ordinary. We blew some opportunities. But in the second half we came home with the wind in our sails," Millard said.
"If we played like we did against Cronulla [last week] we would have been beaten by 70 so all we wanted out of today was to score some points and boost our for and against.
"In the back end of the year, that’s what separates teams. We need to be putting away as many points as possible over the next three weeks."
The St George Dragons had to work a little harder to secure the two competition points after they beat North Sydney Bears 36-24 at TG Milner Field.
It took Dragons winger Shondre Lee-Silva just 60 seconds to score the game's first, which was backed up by fullback Ethan Hicks eight minutes.
Further tries to halfback Liam Christensen and winger Jason Saab put the Dragons up 24-0 after 20 minutes.
Bears back-rower Matthew French earned his side a reprieve when he scored in the 25th minute, but the Dragons quickly replied through hooker Harris Georgopoulos four minutes later.
A try to Arisento Bou-Sleiman – his first of three – on the stroke of half-time saw the Dragons head into the break up 28-10.
Lee-Silva's second try in the 40th minute put the Dragons well ahead though four-pointers to Bears centre Ali Saad and Bou-Sleiman's second kept the home team in proceedings.
Hicks's second try in the 59th minute put the result in no doubt however.
Illawarra Steelers 36 (Ethan Abou-Ghaida 3, Tyson Simpson 2, Jiye Ellis 2, Matthew Delbanco tries, Zaan Weatherall 2 goals) defeated the Central Coast Roosters 6 (Tallis Angianga try, Blake Taaffe goal) at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
St George Dragons 36 (Shondre Lee-Silva 2, Ethan Hicks 2, Liam Christensen, Jason Saab, Harris Georgopoulos tries; Liam Christensen 4 goals) defeated North Sydney Bears 24 (Arisento Bou-Sleiman 3, Matthew French, Ali Saad tries; Lachlan Daly-O'Riley 2 goals) at TG Milner Field, Eastwood.
The Illawarra Steelers Tarsha Gale side were due to play the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. However the Tigers forfeited the match due to their inability to field a side due to injury. The girls are now all but assured a place in the finals.