Just as Picton Magpies belted Narellan to remind everyone they are the team to beat in 2017, Thirlmere Roosters kept their top two hopes alive with a gritty 36-26 win over Mittagong on Sunday afternoon.
Campbelltown conceded 40 points in their loss to the Tigers but are still in equal third spot on the ladder.
Camden and Mittagong are in equal fifth and 11 points, with Narellan and Oakdale bringing up the rear.
The biggest battle of the weekend was at Thirlmere Sportsground where the Roosters and the Lions fought it out for the vital two premiership points. Macarthur Sport Radio’s MIKE SHEAN reports from another epic Group Six encounter:
In perfect conditions at Thirlmere Sportsground and with a healthy crowd supporting both teams, the visitors from the Southern Highlands started the stronger, with damaging forward PJ Thornton scoring after just six minutes to give the Lions a 6-0 lead.
The Lions held sway for much of the opening 20-25 minutes and were rewarded with a second try through hard working hooker Jake Merceica.
The rake backed up a run on the inside and cruised the final 30m to score under the posts.
This seemed to wake the Roosters up, who responded with two tries of their own to get back in the game.
Both tries started with long, damaging runs from forward Dane Coskerie.
Captain coach Jake Mullaney scored the first try and veteran Neddy Saleh got the second.
At half time the scores were level at 12-12.
The home side struck first in the second half, with hooker Dayne Craig scoring to give the Roosters a six point lead – the first time they had been ahead.
But the Roosters certainly had more purpose in the second half, which helped them to dominate possession and territory.
Jordan Tongahai, who has been a welcome addition to the side, scored with 23 minutes left, giving the Thirlmere side a 24-12 lead.
Thornton made another long run, leading to a try for the Lions, keeping them in the game at 24-18, and with 18 minutes left, Mittagong coach Dan Beardshaw would have had hope of a comeback.
Tongahai, who wasn’t given complete rein on his side of the field, scored his second try of the day minutes later, restoring the 12 point lead for the Roosters.
Mullaney added his second minutes after that, and in the space of a five minute burst the game was effectively over, as Thirlmere led 36-18 with 10 minutes to go.
Mittagong, to their credit, didn’t give up though, and scored the final two tries of the day, through winger Bo Lander.
This reduced the margin to 36-26, but they couldn’t close the gap further with time running out.
Thirlmere assistant coach Nathan Sutton, speaking on Group 6 League Live after the game, admitted his side had played well for around 60 minutes, but were slow starters.
Sutton said he was waiting for the Roosters to deliver a full 80 minute performance.
“They’ll need to do that if they want to be a force in the finals this year,’’ he said.
RESULTS – Round 11 first grade
Campbelltown City 32 The Oaks Tigers 40;
Oakdale Workers 6 Camden Rams 72;
Thirlmere Roosters 36 Mittagong Lions 26;
Picton Magpies 52 Narellan Jets 12.
Campbelltown City 22 The Oaks 10;
Oakdale 10 Camden 50;
Thirlmere 4 Mittagong 50;
Picton 16 Narellan 36.
Campbelltown City 36 Moss Vale Dragons 24;
Mt Annan/Oakdale 16 Camden 50;
Thirlmere 34 Mittagong 18;
Picton 32 Narellan 12.
Campbelltown City 48 The Oaks 0;
Oakdale 0 Camden 50;
Thirlmere 68 Mittagong 0;
Oran Park 0 Narellan 22.
SECOND DIVISION SHIELD
Bargo Bunnies 8 Bundanoon Highlanders 32;
Picton Magpies 16 Robertson Spuddies 22.
SECOND DIVISION CUP
Narellan Jets 22 Oran Park Chargers 24;
Appin Dogs 18 Robertson Spuddies 42.
ROUND 12 (July 29-30 first Grade
Camden vs Picton (Sat 7.30pm);
The Oaks vs Narellan
Mittagong vs Oakdale
Thirlmere vs Campbelltown City (Sun 2.30pm).
♦ Camden v Picton and Thirlmere v Campbelltown City will be broadcast live on Macarthur Sports Radio