A second-half hat-trick to Cameron Anderson and a sideline conversion at the death by Steve Gordon has seen Central defeat Lakes 24-22 and leapfrog them on the Newcastle Rugby League ladder.
The now second-placed Butcher Boys came from behind to narrowly claim victory in the top-three clash with the Seagulls at St John Oval on Sunday in what coach Craig Miller described as a “game of two halves”.
Central trailed the visitors 12-0 early and then 18-6 at half-time. The hosts managed to level proceedings before finding themselves behind 22-18 with nine minutes left.
In the closing stages Anderson crossed in the north-eastern corner for his all-important third try, getting the ball from a bat-back by hooker Cody Bryant after a Dom Murphy flick pass went skyward on the last tackle.
Gordon then calmly slotted home the extras, putting the Butcher Boys ahead for the first and most crucial part of the round 14 encounter.
“All I said at half-time was hang in there,” Miller said.
“I knew if we could just hang in there, something would change and something would go our way. Then it was up to us to make the most of that.
“It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it and move on.”
Miller was full of praise for Lakes, who now share third spot on the overall standings.
“For 78 minutes I thought Lakes were the better football side,” he said.
“They were pretty impressive. They looked like a young, athletic football side. They beat us to the territory and possession. We had to grind that one out.”
Also on Sunday and Souths ended Cessnock’s realistic semi-final chances with a 30-10 win at Townson Oval, featuring a double to Lions fullback Lachlan Walmsley.
Souths shot out to an 18-0 lead in the first half while holding up the Goannas over the line four times.
Victorious coach Ben Cross said “it wasn’t a polished” performance and the home side failed to “build pressure’ but he was pleased with their defensive efforts.
Lions lock Tori Freeman was outstanding for the hosts while Cessnock fullback Harry O’Brien always looked dangerous with ball in hand.
On Saturday and Andy Sumner scored twice on return for Macquarie but the Scorpions lost 38-30 to Kurri at Toronto while the Pickers edged out Wests, including a Luke Walsh cameo off the bench, 24-22 at Maitland.