Western Suburbs were desperate to put on a good show for the fans in their return to Campbelltown Stadium for 2010. Despite spending the first 8 rounds of the NSW Cup on the road the Magpies were making a huge impression on the competition and sat just 1 point out of 1st place. The chance to snatch top spot from the league leading Tigers whilst extracting revenge on the only side to lower their colours this year had the Magpies primed for a big performance. In the end though the pressure to put on a show may have contributed to an error-ridden performance where Wests squandered a winning position to allow Balmain to escape with a come from behind victory.
From the kick off the vistors looked the far more likely side and the game was only 2 minutes old when Balmain centre Mitch Brown broke through a one on one tackle and sprinted away 60m to score. The Tigers went further ahead minutes later through an inexplicable Magpies error. Blake Lazarus' grubber into the ingoal was cleaned up by Wests custodian Gearge Kepa, but as he ran the ball back into the field of play the No.1 was shepherded towards the sideline. Kepa threw a deperate ball back inside that landed straight into the arms of Tigers centre Gavin Cowan who simply had to bend down to score. Sean Meaney showed what he thought of the Magpie fans heckling to drill two magnificent sideline conversions and Wests were looking down the barrel of a hiding at 12-0 down within the first 10 minutes of the game.
It took until the 20th minute for Wests to finally put some pressure on the Balmain defence and big Front Rower Andrew Fifita made the breakthough with a trademark powerhouse run to score. With Corby adding the extras Wests were back in the game at 12-6. The injection of interchange forwards Andrew Pearn and Duan Poaneki seemed to inspire a much more disciplined and cohesive performance from the Magpies. Wests would score 3 more unanswered converted tries with Jamie Sharkie scoring before the break, followed by tries to Falcone and Daniella early in the second half from kicks giving the home side a 24-12 lead and all of the momentum in the game.
That momentum swung dramatically when Wests were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts 10 minutes into the half. Despite having first choice kicker Corby on the sidelines the Magpies elected to take the shot for goal. Stand in kicker Jamie Sharkie had already piloted two good conversions through the posts, but he shanked the kick badly and the Tigers could feel they had dodged a bullet. With the hard working Pearn going off for a spell not long after the game opened up for the Tigers as they started to take advantage of Wests' errors. It was to be the Magpies destroyers from the Round 2 game, Balmain halves Arana Taumata and Blake Lazarus, that would once again land the knock out blows. In the 20th minute Fifita rushed out of the line to put a hit on Taumata, but the Tigers 5/8 is simply too fleet of foot for that to work and he sprinted through the gap created to score. Just a couple of minutes later the Magpies made exactly the same mistake when Everingham raced up to shut down Taumata, but he managed to roll a clever grubber into the ingoal for his Captain Lee Bennett to ground the ball. Meaney's conversion attempt hit the uprights and Wests were barely hanging on at 24-22.
Despite the close score and the come from behind victory it was a scrappy game from both sides and not of the standard of recent clashes between the Joint Venture partners. In the end Wests errors invited the Tigers into attacking position one too many times and to their credit the competition leaders found a way to win. Best for the Magpies were interchange forward Andrew Pearn who lifted the side whenever he was on, lock Jamie Sharkie and winger Rhys Pritchard. The Magpies will be looking to strike back hard when they take on Shellharbour next Sunday from 3pm at Ron Costello Oval Shellharbour.
We thank our match day sponsor: Magpie Moments.
Balmain 28 (Brown, Cowan, Taumata, Bennett, Lazarus; Meaney 4 goals) defeated Western Suburbs (Fifita, Sharkie, Falcone, Daniella; Corby 2, Sharkie 2 goals)