Illawarra Cutters have won the first State Championship for a New South Wales side with a first half demolition to set up a big victory against Gold Coast based Burleigh Bears.
The Cutters NRL experience and the experience of previous State Championships from Shaun Nona made all the difference. Although their second half was not quite as dominant it was more than enough to secure an emphatic victory.
After a solid start from both sides which included a 40-20 kick from Illawarra and a 50m intercept run from Burleigh, it was the Dragons feeder club who scored the first try in the 7th minute through prop Shannon Wakeman when he crashed over under the posts.
From this point on it was all the Cutters, who had two near misses after Siliva Havili fell a metre short after a great inside ball from Hutchison, and wicked bounce from a Nona short kick landed in Cutters hands but they weren’t able to keep hold of it. A third near miss in the 20th minute confirmed the Cutters dominance as Kalifa FaiFai Loa stood on the touch line in his attempt to score in the corner.
Not long after the Cutters broke through for their second try and the floodgates opened. Hutchison ran through the middle and found Nona before it ended up Damien Sironen to make it 12-0 in the 23rd minute.
Just three minutes later it was 18-0 as Taane Milne found a long ball on the right and powered down the sideline and held up a beautiful offload for Adam Quinlan to score the Cutters third try.
Five minutes later it was try number four for Illawarra as another short kick from Nona found its mark as Jacob Host timed his run perfectly to score.
Burleigh’s only really attacking raid for the half ended in a knock on with five to go until half time.
This set up the Cutters fifth try as an audacious kick from the scrum was recovered by Faifai Loa who got within 20m. Two tackles later another Nona short kick produced points as Chris Lewis was the recipient this time.
With the half time score 30-0 it seemed the scoreline was set to embarrass the Intrust Super Cup champions. Burleigh could take heart from earlier in the day where the Roosters stirring come back in the Holden Cup decider.
If Burleigh Bears thought life was going to be easier in the second half they were mistaken as Cutters picked up where they left off in the first half.
It took just five minutes for the Cutters to extend the margin, albeit controversially after a try was sent to the video referee as No Try due to Obstruction. The decision was overturned by a generous video referee and the lead was now out to 36-0.
The game was all but over in the 57th minute after the Cutters had added two more tries to lead 48-0. The first was scored through Siliva Havili who joined the ranks of try scoring forwards for the Cutters, and for the second Kurt Mann was on the receiving end of another perfect Shaun Nona kick.
Burleigh finally crossed in the 61st minute when Josh Alaiomai crashed over from short range, but just two minutes later Illawarra passed the 50 mark as Taane Milne scored after a short run from Dummy Half. The score with more than 15 minutes to go was 54-6.
The last part of the game was run as per the usual for games where the result is well and truly decided with so long to go. Both sides tried to add more points, but errors and penalties took over. An injury to Shaun Nona in the last few minutes was less than he deserved.
A consolation try to Kurtis Rowe for the Bears with a minute to go provided little joy, but at least gave Burleigh double figures for the day.
Illawarra were thoroughly deserving winners having blown the Bears off the park for the majority of the State Championship game.