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Wests game run comes to an end

September 2013

Ron Massey Cup Preliminary Final

WIN Jubilee,Oval, Kogarah,

New South Wales

by Jodie Newell

Reality finally caught up with the Western Suburbs Magpies as their gallant run in the Ron Massey Cup finals came to end via a drama-filled comeback by Wentworthville 32-24 at Kogarah Oval.

After back to back finals victories including the prized scalp of minor premiers Cabramatta, injuries and opposition players dropping from NSW Cup to Ron Massey Cup grade made the task of advancing to the grand final insurmountable.

Wests did not leave the competition without one hell of a fight and Wentworthville can count their lucky stars they were able to draw upon their reserves of higher graded players whose class and finesses made the difference in the end.

One of the big problems Wests have experienced over the past month has been the inability to start well. In this instance they were superb, forcing Wentworthville into handling errors and when they had possession, Wests made excellent field position.

Their work was rewarded when Michael Stevens made a surging run, offloading to Dean Rysko who was able to get the ball off to Limoni Kamuta who was over for a try. Stevens copped a nasty tackle after his offload to Rysko and was a little shaken. Thanks to the “magic sponge” from Wests trainer Valerie McEwan, Michael was able to regather his focus and slot through an angled conversion, Wests off to superb start 6-0

“We could've have won that game. We were in a situation to do that and we let it go”

- Western Suburbs coach Leo Epifania

Magpie full-back Sam Aiga who’s past form had been solid, pounced on a Michael Stevens chip kick and was able to beat the Wenty defence to score  try under the posts. Stevens converted and Wests were now up 12-0.

Wentworthville needed to get back into the game, they were lucky the score wasn't greater. Favourable refereeing and the persistence of Arthur Takapu finally paid off and Wenty were on the board. Aaron Fluke made no mistake with the extras and Wenty were on the board at the 30th minute 12-6.

Wests would finish the half on a positive with Wentworthville clearly frustrated. This was illustrated by a crude charge on Michael Stevens on a 5th tackle kick. Wests were given a penalty and made full use of the excellent field position. Fred Tavago was given the ball and took on the Wenty defence, beating several players before bounding over the tryline. It was an outstanding effort by Tavago as he had the courage and belief to run and it payed dividends, Stevens attempt at the extras failed after the ball hit the uprights but the Magpies had the lead 16-6. It was an excellent effort by the Western Suburbs Magpies as they went into the sheds  for a well deserved break.

There would be no let up in the application of Wests as the second half started. They kept up the scoring tempo when Sam Aiga made a superb run, with a deft sidestep and solid fends. Again the courage to run was the recurring theme as Aiga scored a superb try. Stevens made no mistake with his conversions, Wests up by 16 points 22-6 after 5 minutes.

It was clear Wenty remained frustrated and targeted key Wests play makers. Sam Aiga copped a nasty hit and then a nasty dangerous spear like tackle made one wonder why the referees didn't take more serious action against Wentworthville.  Wests were awarded a penalty after the dangerous tackle and Michael Stevens decided to take the two points. He made the kick and Wests lead moved out to 24-6.

This penalty marked a turning point in the game. Whether the Wests players thought they had done enough with some 27 minutes remaining will only known to them as Wentworthville slowly began to grind down their opposition.

They soon had a try on the board via a Daniel Penese try. Aaron Fluke made no mistake and Wenty were coming 24-12.

Incredibly Wenty again had another try on the board after the restart. This time Jarome Mackenzie made easy work of a disorganised Wests defence. Fluke got the extras 24-18

It was clear Wenty had all the momentum, making surging runs as Wests tried valiantly to stem the tide. It was to no avail as

Dominic Reardon was the next to score, Fluke slew the kick wide with Wests grimly hanging on 24-22.

Like an incoming tide, Wests could not stop the surge of Wentworthville who claimed the lead with a great run by KJ Mackenzie. Wenty had come from nowhere to lead 26-24.  Fluke was unable to build on the lead missing the conversion.

In a heartbreaking ending, the last 90 seconds saw Wests get as close to the try line as possible without scoring. Michael Stevens went for the last roll of the dice chip kick, which was fortuitously snapped up by Wenty’s Dominic Reardon who ran all the way and sealed a grand final berth for his club. It’s worth reporting that Wests bigman Sefa Sillafou chased Reardon to the very end of the play forcing Fluke to take a harder shot. Nonetheless he converted and it was the end of an incredible preliminary final. Wenty winning 32-24 and advancing to meet Mounties in the Ron Massey Cup Grand Final.

The scenes in the Wests room after the game was one of desolation. Wests coach Leo Epifania locked the doors and addressed his players in private before friends and family could enter and offer their support.

A dejected Epifania said that whilst he was proud of players, it clearly was a game they should have won “We could've have won that game. We were in a situation to do that and we let it go”.

So the 2013 ride is over for the Wests Magpies. On paper they should never have advanced further than the elimination final with key player injury losses to Nathan Waters and tackling machine Tom Morrison. Waters experience and calm head was sorely needed as to was Morrison who had stopped everything bar the breeze in previous weeks. Whilst beaten, the team did the Western Suburbs brand name proud, displaying that Magpie spirit that lives on in their loyal fans who have turned up week after week.

Sam Aiga, Michael Stevens and Dean Rysko showed a level of class throughout the finals series, whilst Sonni Passi and Fred Tavago put in solid performances. Coach Leo Epifania was outstanding. He clearly is a student of the game and constructed a strategy to match it with the best of teams. It would not be surprising if he was involved at a higher level of rugby league. Hopefully he will continue his tenure with the Magpies in 2014.

Final score:  Wentworthville 32 defeated Wests Magpies 24

Tries Wenty: Dominic Reardon 2, Arthur Takapu, Daniel Penese, Jarome Mackenzie, KJ Mackenzie

Tries Wests:Sam Aiga 2, Limoni Kamuta, Fred Tevaga

Conversions Wenty:  Aaron Fluke 4

Conversions Wests: Michael Stevens 4

Referee: Danile Olford

Touch Judges :  Kasey Badger   Scott Shepard

At WIN Jubilee, Kogarah Oval, Kogarah

Crowd (estimate): 500+

Tough in close. West Magpies v Wentworthville Ron Massey Cup Preliminary Final 2013

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Wests Magpies make their way out onto the Kogarah Oval turf

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