HAMILTON coach Scott Coleman reckoned the battle was half won before the Hawks took the field against Wanderers in the showdown for the minor premiership.
“Just the noise coming out of their camp,” Coleman said. “You hear their talk about the game. Whether Tiueti Asi was going to play and the work they are doing on us rather than concentrating on themselves.The psychological battle is already won before we play sometimes.”
Asi, who was released by Warringah on Friday after missing out on the semi-final squad, started at brekaway and scored the first try.
It took until the 80th minute but the Hawks delivered 34-30 in a gripping contest at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The win moved Hamilton four points clear at the top of the table. A draw ,or possibly as little as a bonus point, in the final round against Merewether at home will secure a third straight minor premiership.
Again, it was the Hawks scrum which put the sledgehammer to the Two Blues.
Wanderers, up 30-29 but down to 14 men after hooker Ryan Jackson was sent to the sinbin, had a scrum feed five metres from their own line.
Hamilton, with the advantage of an extra forward, blasted through the middle. The Wanderers pack buckled and split and Steve Sione dived on the ball to score his fourth try and snatch the win.
“We do a lot of work on the scrum,” Coleman said. “We are blessed in that we have two first-grade packs. We have shortened it up recently but halfway through the season they were doing 35-minute scrum sessions.Travis Soulsby looks after it and does a great job.”
There was conjecture over the Hawks’ use of the bench after starting tighthead prop Faavae Sila returned to the field for the final 10 minutes.
Coleman said they had operated within the by-laws
“You are only required to have one tighthead on the bench,” Coleman said. “I told Faavae that I wanted him to go the whole game but as soon as I saw him walking he was getting hooked. He was walking after 30 minutes so I put Geraint Weaver on. Then “G” pinched his neck with 10 minutes to go.”
The spirit-sapping defeat on Saturday was the second time the Two Blues have been edged out late by the Hawks this season.
In the 20-18 loss in round eight at Passmore Oval, Wanderers thought they had snatched a win in the dying moments when Tom Emayel dived over in the right corner. But the touch judge ruled he had gone into touch before planting the ball down. BarTV Sports replays showed the decision was highly contentious.
“The past three or four games have either been won or lost on the bell,” Coleman said. “That might play on their minds.”
Wanderers captain Luke Simmons, asked if Hamilton had a mental edge on his side said: “The season says they do. Two losses from two. We matched them in the first half. I’m not sure if it was fatigue? Again yellow cards went to the forwards which hurts.”
Hamilton had Steve Sione, Ratu Delanimate, and Fiso Vaisegote sent to the sinbin as Wanderers jumped to an 18-12 at the break, despite running into a brutal southerly.
Wanderers lost Jackson and Ben Ham to yellow cards amidst a 9-2 penalty count in the second half.