Elimination Final - Parramatta Eels v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Saturday 1 September, 11am
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs eliminated the Parramatta Eels from the 2018 Jersey Flegg competition in a 22-18 thriller at Panthers Stadium.
An even start to the game saw some brilliant end-to-end footy that turned out to be the theme of the match, but once the Bulldogs got back-to-back sets they were able to capitalise. A ball ricocheted off a Parramatta defender while the Bulldogs were on the attack, and Alex Seve took advantage by hitting a hole and taking an early lead.
Parramatta hit back with a long-range effort soon after when Haze Dunster made a bust during a left-side raid and gave the ball to Todd Sapienza, who was looming in support, before he stretched out and planted the ball for a try despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts to bring him down.
That try was finesse, but the next as brute strength when Sione Fonua wound up from 10 metres out and forced his way over, before Ethan Parry did almost the same shortly afterwards as he ducked underneath the first defender and powerfully found his way to the try-line.
A miss-timed kick gave the Bulldogs a 20-metre restart with seven tackles up their sleeve and they certainly made the Eels pay. Brandon Wakeham took the ball to the line before he threw an absolutely perfect pass to Dalton Smith, who caught the ball on the outside of his defender and strolled through the hole to score.
Despite Parramatta having scored three tries to two, 12-all was the half-time score, but the Bulldogs overtook that statistic in the space of six minutes when Tuipulotu Katoa scored before Smith crossed for his second.
The Eels hit back when Sapienza secured his double soon after which etched the margin back to four, and it looked like the Bulldogs had secured the game when Ryan Gray threw a magic flick-pass that almost led to a try, but the scrambling Parramatta defence kept them in the battle.
A frantic final minute saw the Eels throw the ball to all points of the park in a desperate attempt to score, but it would be an important tackle by Gray that shut them down, eliminating them from the finals.
Qualifying Final - Newcastle Knights v Mounties
McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday 1 September, 12.45pm
The Mounties are just one win away from the Jersey Flegg Cup Grand Final, following a thrilling 25-24 upset win over minor premiers the Newcastle Knights, at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Last time the teams met in Round 21, it was a comprehensive 36-point victory to the Knights, but it was a completely different story in the opening Qualifying Final, with the visitors putting up a much stronger challenge.
Mounties dominated the opening five minutes with three consecutive sets on the Newcastle line, but were twice held up over the line – before an error let the home side off the hook.
They would soon rue those missed chances, as the Knights were finally given some good field position, and showed why they were minor premiers.
The competition’s leading point scorer Kuris Dark provided the perfect offload in traffic for Starford Toa to open the scoring.
But it was third time lucky for the Mounties, on their next visit inside the Knights’ 20 metre zone, Hudson Young crashed over next to the posts to level the scores in the 15th minute.
The minor premiers were soon on the attack again thanks to a perfectly placed 40-20 from Nash Birch, but his teammates could not finish the job with a dropped ball close to the line.
The Novocastrians soon had a chance to make amends, when second rower Beau Fermor broke through the defensive line and ran 60 metres to score, with a dummy that completely bamboozled opposition fullback Mathew Lyons.
To his credit, Lyons was desperate not to be shown up again. Phoenix Crossland pinned the ears back from 30 metres out, but the fullback made one of the cover tackles of the season, pulling him down just centimetres from the try line, to prevent the Knights going further in front.
Mounties had a golden chance to strike back before the break, with five minutes of solid attack – but just could not crack the Knights’ defence, who maintained a 12-6 lead at half-time.
Some early handling errors in the second-half from Newcastle, allowed the Mounties to pick up where they left off, but this time they could not stop Paul Roache who burrowed his way over to lock the scores up at 12-all.
Discipline was costing Knights, with penalties allowing Mounties to attack the line again, and when they could not go through the defensive line, they went over it. With Thomas McGrady grounding a cross-field kick, to give the Mounties the lead for the first time in the game.
The joy was short lived, with Birch catching the opposition napping at dummy-half, crashing over from short range, to again level the scores.
But in a see-sawing game, Mounties again had the lead, when Andre Niko took advantage of some poor defence on the left edge to crash over in the corner, installing a six-point advantage with 11 minutes remaining.
Inside the final eight minutes, the margin was pushed out to seven, when Tobias Westcott slotted a field goal from right in front.
However, the Knights were not done with, Tex Hoy chasing through on a down-field kick to put the ball down under the posts, cutting the margin to one, with four to go.
But a dropped ball in the next set off the kick-off eased the pressure on the visiting team who held on for the win, Mounties earning a Preliminary Finals berth in the process.
Qualifying Final - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Penrith Panthers
Saturday 1 September, 3.15pm
A strong opening laid the platform for an impressive 18-10 Panthers victory over Cronulla in the Jersey Flegg Qualifying Final at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
The young Panthers now enjoy a week off ahead of a Preliminary Final at Leichhardt Oval.
The Panthers raced out of the blocks against the Sharks, who finished second on the ladder in the regular season. Stephen Crichton's kick-off bounced into touch and the Panthers began building pressure on the Cronulla line.
It took just three minutes for the Panthers to open the scoring. Returning to Ben Harden's side following a stint in the ISP, Shawn Blore ran a great line and powered his way over the line. Brendan Hands' conversion gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers doubled their lead after 11 minutes of play when Marlon Ritchie finished a nice backline play to cross out wide. Hands' sweetly-struck conversion took the lead to 12.
A customary kick return from Daine Laurie turned bad when Jackson Ferris stripped the ball free and crossed untouched to get the Sharks on the board. The conversion attempt from Braydon Trindall hit the upright and bounced away.
Stephen Crichton ignited the Panthers heading into the break. He stepped infield and found Daine Laurie who burst through the defensive line. He bounced away from the attempted tackle and dived over to score the Panthers third of the half. Hands converted the try to give the Panthers an 18-4 lead at the break.
Both sides tussled for possession early in the second half with neither team able to build pressure on the opposition's defensive line.
Panthers second-rower Alex Myles succumbed to a right arm injury, leaving the home side down a man on the interchange bench with 13 minutes remaining.
With seven minutes remaining and time running out, Jackson Ferris crossed for his second of the afternoon. The sideline conversion from Braydon Trindall reduced the deficit to eight and had the Sharks well and truly back in the game.
The Sharks through everything at the Panthers defence in the final minutes but the young Panthers stood tall to progress through to week 3 of the Jersey Flegg Finals Series.
Elimination Finals - Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday 2 September, 3.45pm
The Sydney Roosters blew the St George Illawarra Dragons off the park with a massive 40-28 victory that will see them advance to Week Two of the finals.
It was a simple try to start proceedings for the Roosters, with Treymain Spry finishing a left-to-right shift with players in motion to stroll over just two minutes in.
A contender for try of the year across any grade in all competitions came next from Lachlan Lam. He bursted through the defence from deep inside his own half and beat half of the Dragons team as he drifted towards the corner-post before stepping off his left foot to fool three defenders and score.
Adam Pompey beat two players to score a skilful try in the corner, before Kenese Kenese increased the Roosters lead to a commanding 22-0 when he crashed through.
The Dragons crossed the line but the try was disallowed for a forward pass, before Lam was at it again with a perfect cut-out ball to Asu Kepaoa who scored in the corner.
Dragons got the perfect start to the second half with Luke Gale scoring adjacent to the posts, but Spry kept the margin at a fair distance when he drew in his opposition centre and passed for his winger to stroll over untouched.
NSW Under-20s Origin representative Matheson Johns showed strength and determination to burrow his way over for the Dragons, before a left-to-right shift was finished by the fast feet of Tyran Wishart, bringing the deficit back to 30-18.
The Dragons were so close to scoring under the posts, but the despite defence of the Roosters held them up. It turned out to be a 12-point-turnaround, as McKenzie Baker made an 80 metre run before Adam Pompey finished the try.
A brilliant kick-off from Tristan Sailor got his side the ball back and Gale immediately scored to give the Dragons half a chance with seven minutes remaining, but it would be Pompey to once again to score for the Roosters against the run of play.
The game finished with a brutal big hit by Tagiolupe Tivalu, but it was deemed illegal and he was sent from the field, before Sailor scored the Dragons final try of the season when he pounced on a grubber underneath the posts.