CESSNOCK all but wrapped up the Newcastle Rugby League minor premiership and killed off South Newcastle’s finals hopes with a comprehensive 44-12 victory over the Lions in the deferred round-eight game at Townson Oval yesterday.
The class and experience of former National Rugby League journeymen Riley Brown and Terence Seu Seu proved the difference as Cessnock broke a 12-12 deadlock with two converted tries in the space of as many minutes just before half-time to lead 24-12 at the break.
The table-topping Goannas went on with the job in the second half, posting another four tries to move to 26 points – four clear of Wests and Macquarie with three rounds left.
Souths remained in sixth position on 15 points, three adrift of Maitland and Kurri Kurri, and they face Lakes (home), Central (home) and Cessnock (away) in their last three games.
Seu Seu, centre Jacob McKendry and winger Beau Ryan all scored doubles yesterday, and Brown and prop Junior Afu also crossed for tries.
Brown was in doubt after contracting a staph infection from grass burns while playing for NSW Country in Samoa last month but played a dominant role yesterday, combining with younger brother Joel in the halves to create six of Cessnock’s eight tries.
The Lions had several chances to score early in the second half but were unable to control the final pass or penetrate the Goannas’ goal-line defence.
‘‘They were here to play and had nothing to lose and everything to gain. They came here with a good attitude, but I thought we weathered it reasonably well ... and no injuries, which was good,’’ Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said.
‘‘We’ve got no more rep footy now so we’ve got three games to go and we can just concentrate on those and getting ourselves ready for the finals. We’ve got to keep working hard for three more weeks, no short cuts, then the new comp starts.
‘‘The rep season was tough on us, and at the same time we had injuries, but we’ve got out of it not too badly ... so touch wood, we get through with the group we’ve got now.’’
Macquarie Scorpions paid a price for their last-minute 28-24 victory over Maitland in the deferred round-three game at Maitland on Saturday, losing captain Blake Gallen to a knee injury that could end his season.
Scorpions coach Noel Dent said Gallen will have scans today to determine the extent of the damage but he was not optimistic of an early return.
‘‘He went down with about five minutes to go. We think he’s done a medial ligament,’’ Dent said.
Trailing 24-22 with about 90 seconds to go, Macquarie began their last attacking set five metres from their own line. Dent said they worked the ball up-field and Jacob Briggs scored in the final minute to give the Scorpions a vital win against the two-time defending premiers.
‘‘We’ve been towelled up by Souths and towelled up by Wests in our last couple, so we needed an improved performance,’’ Dent said. ‘‘We’ve got Cessnock, Wyong and Kurri in the run home, and that’s no easy task, so that was an important win for us.’’