Nelson Bay have set up a top-of-the-table clash against Merewether Carlton this weekend after announcing themselves as genuine premiership contenders by knocking off three-time defending champions Hamilton.
The Gropers edged out the Hawks 24-22 in windy conditions at Passmore Oval on Saturday, leaving them in a share of the Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union competition lead with the Greens ahead of their sixth-round encounter at Townson Oval.
It was the first time in recent memory Nelson Bay have beaten Hamilton, a streak potentially stretching back almost a decade to 2009. In their last six outings with one another, the Hawks recorded a combined winning margin of 180 points over the Gropers.
However, May 12 was Nelson Bay’s day, led with 14 points to inside centre Michael Wiringi. Gropers breakway Nathan Oliver, who escaped suspension this week after being red carded last start, and five-eighth Chad Northcott also scored tries for the visitors.
Hamilton, who now slip back to fifth spot on the ladder, had prop William Fonua, hooker Chris Ale and winger Sireli Bainivalu pick up five pointers. Hawks fly half Dane Sherratt landed two conversions and a penalty.
The scores were locked at 17-all at half-time. Wiringi’s second-half conversion proved the difference.
Over at No.2 Sportsground and third-placed Wanderers had two men sent off and another put in the sin-bin for their part in a melee late in Saturday’s 42-7 win against University.
Two Blues lock Marcus Christensen and replacement prop Stephen Neli were given their marching orders while hooker Ben Christensen received a yellow card along with University inside centre Charlie Mortimer.
The incident will be reviewed Monday based on the referee report before any potential charges are issued. Judiciary sits on Wednesday night if required.
Wanderers No.8 and former Samoan international Francis Ieremia scored a hat-trick.
Elsewhere in round five on Saturday and undefeated Merewether Carlton ran in 10 tries during a 71-5 rout of the Bulls at Singleton’s Rugby Park while Lake Macquarie picked up their first competition point of the season after crossing the line five times, but were beaten 47-33 by fourth-placed Southern Beaches at Ernie Calland Field.
Maitland had the bye.
LADDER: Nelson Bay, Merewether Carlton 18; Wanderers 17; Southern Beaches 14; Hamilton 12; Maitland 10; University, Singleton 9; Lake Macquarie 1.