Illawarriors Bundled out of Caldwell Cup

The Illawarriors senior and colts squads travelled to the very well presented Glen Willow Sporting Complex at Mudgee in Western NSW, for the NSW Country Rugby Championships this weekend. The senior Illawarriors were there to play hosts, Central West for a place in the Caldwell Cup final. They were expecting a very spirited welcome from the Bulls and they certainly got that. A strong defensive effort from the western boys and an out of sorts performance from the Illawarra side resulted in a 19 – 5 victory to Central West which put Illawarra out of contention for this years’ Caldwell Cup.

Central West dominated possession in the first half of the match as Illawarra struggled to match their opponents physically at the breakdown with poor handling plaguing the Illawarra effort. Halfback Josh Holman limped from the field after five minutes with a bad cork above the knee and took no further part in the match. Flanker Mitchell Wakeford left the field with a hand injury shortly after and then replacement forward Tim Olsen was gone for the match with a bad gash under his eye, and Illawarra was left 3 players short on the bench. While all this was going on the Central West defense was proving unbreakable for the Illawarriors as time and time again bad handling let the Illawarriors down. Central West winger Scott Burgess landed three penalty goals from three attempts to put the Bulls in front at the break by 9 – 0.

Three minutes into the second half a certain try for the Illawarriors went begging when poor ball security from Andre Itula cost the side a certain 7 points. From a scrum in the Bulls quarter, Itula ran from the left wing and worked a rehearsed play with five/eighth Ben Greentree. From an inside pass Itula had a clear run to the line, but as he was about to score the try, inexplicably lost control of the ball and the try went begging. After 20 minutes of play, one of the Illawarriors best centre Lee Russell copped 10 minutes in the Bin for a shoulder charge and Burgess added another penalty goal as a result for Central West to lead 12 – 0. Whilst Russell was off No. 8 Paul Tuala finished good lead up work from Greentree and the ever dangerous Eli Sinoti to cross for the games first try. The Illawarriors started to put together some promising raids only to see two tries go begging again with poor handling. With minutes remaining the Bulls were awarded a penalty and Burgess stepped up for another goal attempt. He missed with his kick but Don Nepia knocked on in the Illawarra in goal which resulted in a 5 meter scrum to Central North. From the ensuing play Bulls No.8 Lochie McCutcheon crossed for the try and with Burgess’ conversion racked up the final score of 19 – 5.

The best for the Illawarriors were centre Lee Russell and lock Mitch Hardy, with Eli Sinoti a constant threat to the Central West defense. In summary the Illawarra effort was disrupted by injuries but their effort at the breakdown was below par and they turned over way too much ball to win the game.

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