MEREWETHER co-coach Mick Gill was certain: “If we hang on to the ball for the next 15 minutes we will win this.”
Replacement winger Kostandreas Sykiotis had just scored in the right corner for the Greens to trail Lake Macquarie 33-15 at Walters Park on Saturday.
It was one of the rare occasions Merewether had strung six phases together.
Until that point, the home side had controlled the game.
However, Gill could sense the Roos were tiring. Clocking off.
“If we hang on to ball we will win this” he bellowed, almost pleading his players to take notice.
All of sudden it clicked. The Greens lifted the tempo and attacked Lake Macquarie on the edges.
Jay Strachan cut back on the inside and raced 20 metres to cross and close to 33-22 in the 72nd minute.
The Roos, whose discipline had been good for 60 minutes, lost Jack Ogilvy to the sinbin for repeated infringements. Moments later, Josh Stewart burrowed over next to the posts for 33-29.
Then, with time up, Merewether after more than a dozen phases inside the Roos quarter, caught the home side short on the left and Kieren Donovaro dived over to snatch a 34-33 miracle.
“That is what has been winning us games – holding on to the ball,” Gill said. “We were kicking the ball away unecessarily and trying to compete in the arm wrestle with them. We needed to change the point of contact and keep possession. We are a much better team when we have ball in hand. I could see they were tiring. I knew if we hung on to the ball we would win. Fifteen minutes is a long time.”
Incredibly, the week before, the Roos had stormed home to score three tries in the final eight minutes and grab a 37-all draw with Hamilton.
“It is all about momentum," Lake Macquarie captain Brendan Holliday said. “We are good when we are on the front foot. When it gets turned around we have to learn how to get back in the game. There is always going to be ups and downs. When you are on the back foot, you have to find a way to change the momentum and we couldn’t do that in the final 10 minutes.”
The win moved the Greens three points above Lake Macquarie and into fifth spot with two rounds remaining. Merewether host an in-form Southern Beaches and finish away to Hamilton.
The Roos meet Maitland and Nelson Bay (away).
“This gives us a buffer for a week,” Gill said. “We definitely haven’t secured a semi-final spot yet. There are a lot of improvements to be made.”
Beaches coach Tim Chidgey was confident the Roos could bounce back.
“We got two bonus points out of that which is important,” he said. “It is just disappointing – the game was there to be won and we lost it. We panicked at the end and played as individuals. What got us the lead was playing as a team and being direct. We need to dust ourselves off and get ready for Maitland. We need to get two bonus-point wins and hope results go our way.”