WOLVES ONE WIN AWAY AFTER DRAMATIC LATE COMEBACK WIN OVER SHARKS
Windsor not once but twice came from behind to inflict the minor premiers’ first home loss of the season in dramatic circumstances, winning 24-22 at Remondis Stadium today & in doing so have earning themselves a week off. The win was even more mer…itorious given the game was played in tricky conditions with a strong south easterly wind blowing across Remondis Stadium which didn’t suit the competition’s most accurate goal kicker in season 2013 Wes Naiqama.
Windsor made plenty of late positional changes, the most important of which was to start Vaipuna Tia Kilifi as hooker & Blake South back to the interchange bench in a bid to counter the big Sharks pack early in the game, bolstered by the inclusion of Mark Taufua.
Windsor had first use of the strong wind but it was Cronulla who opened proceedings after just 4 minutes when Nathan Gardner sliced through Windsor’s left edge from 30m out before finding Chad Townsend on his inside to score under the posts & with the halfback’s conversion, the Sharks had a dream 6-0 lead.
Cronulla were able to take advantage of Windsor’s inability to convert pressure into points when a suspiciously forward looking offload from Taufua went unchecked & the winger Young Tonumaipea collected to score in the left corner from close range to extend Cronulla’s lead to 10 points after 17 minutes.
Windsor were not perturbed as they continued to attack the Sharks line & were finally rewarded in the 30th minute when a Luke Capewell cross field kick allowed Tony Satini to get in behind his opposite winger to brilliantly take the ball one-handed & score in the right corner.
With three minutes remaining to half time, scores were level when a Cronulla knock on from the 20m restart, gave Windsor good field position & in the ensuing set, Blake Austin diagonally ran across Cronulla’s right edge before crashing over out wide despite the attention of two Cronulla defenders.
The Wolves having come back into the game were dealt a blow after the Sharks scored a brilliant try with the last play of the half. Tonumaipea chip kicked from halfway, regathered, zigzagged his way across field leaving several defenders in his wake before offloading to his five eighth Manumalealii who streaked across to score under the posts. Townsend’s conversion gave Cronulla 16-10 at the break, knowing they would have the strong wind at their backs in the second half.
The Wolf Pack as with the first half, continued to dominate possession & territory in the opening period of the second half but the last pass just didn’t stick or the kick missed its mark. Cronulla again capitalised with the opening try midway through the second half when Taufua made the half-break from 35m out before offloading to Kirisome Auva’a whose offload took a fortuitous deflection off Satini & the centre regathered to score out wide. Townsend’s conversion gave Cronulla the biggest lead of the game at 22-10.
Windsor’s comeback started with one of the tries of the season. A quick spread out right on halfway found Satini who appeared closed down but kept the ball alive going back inside to Naiqama who kept the play going left before Austin busted the line up the middle before offloading back out to Naiqama who attacked the line before finding Satini with a miracle pass & the winger had plenty of work to do in catching & diving over in the corner in the one motion despite the attention of two Cronulla defenders. Despite the missed conversion from the sideline, the Wolves were back in the game trailing 22-14 with 11 minutes.
A grandstand finish was ensured when a Townsend pass was intercepted by Austin who went 60m to score under the posts & cut the lead back to 2 points with 5 minutes remaining. The comeback was complete when play shifted left before Tom Eisenhuth threw a brilliant cut-out pass to the Cup’s leading try scorer, Eto Nabuli & the Flying Fijian did the rest, scorching 40m down the left touchline to score his 26th & most important try of the season to give the Wolves a late but well deserved win.
Coach Guy Missio was elated with the win but added there is still plenty of work to be done. “I was always confident that we would get the win today. They let themselves down at times but I’m proud in the way they kept on believing in themselves. They are a very close knit team & that’s something you just can’t coach into a team. I thought we controlled things much better in the second half, particularly in defence. The key now is bottling the boys’ confidence & making sure that they are prepared for the next game, without looking too far ahead.”
Sam Anderson added “the boys will take a lot of confidence out that game & the importance of getting the win first up in daylight given we’ve been playing at night recently & our remaining games are all in the day.” Wes Naiqama also mentioned the importance of the week off to the team. “Its been a long season so it was good to get the win out there today & get the week off as it will help freshen up the group”.
Windsor will go to the preliminary final on Sunday 29th September to be played at Leichhardt Oval & will play Newcastle, North Sydney or the Wests Tigers.
Final Score: Windsor 24 (Tries: Satini 2, Austin 2, Nabuli Goals: Naiqama 1 /4 Moylan 1/1) def. Cronulla 22 (Tries: Townsend, Tonumaipea, Manumalealii, Auva’a Goals: Townsend 3/4)