What a doozy! Leaders Bonnyrigg lose their first match of the year, Parramatta creeps to within one win of their great rivals, Liverpool score their first goal in five weeks, Granville upsets the Northern Tigers away from home, and Mount Druitt continue their surge up the ladder with another win.
The second half of the NSW Super League has certainly started with a bang.
The results leaves the White Eagles on top with 26 competition points, ahead of the Eagles (23), Bossy (19), Saints (19), Dragons (17), Rage (17), Tigers (15) and Rangers (14).
The race to the super scorer?s boot has also got a bit tighter lately with Liverpool?s Alex Canak and Parramatta?s Andy Amegashie leading the way on eight goals each, closely followed by Bonnyrigg?s Goran Subara and Saints striker Nick Polimenakos with seven. Fraser Park recruit Greg Collins lifted to six goals after scoring against Fairfield, while Neil Woodcock (Lightning), Daniel Nash (Tigers), Daniel Wilson (Suns) and Aaron Kidd (Uni) stay in the mix with five goals each.
Saints shoot down White Eagles
It took a dozen rounds, but St George Saints riled up the Super League title race by breaking down the previously unbeaten Bonnyrigg White Eagles 2-0 at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday night. The Saints moved into equal-third place with a convincing display in front of home fans, and showed that last year?s champions may not have this year?s trophy in the cabinet after all.
St George is one of only three teams to have scored against Bonnyrigg this season, and they built on a hard-fought 1-1 draw in round one to rattle the defending champions second-time around. A plan to pressure was played to perfection by the Saints players, and coach John Calleja attributed a lot of that success to his assistant Matt Ribarovski.
?Matty was our 12th man out there on Saturday night. The amount of work he did with the boys at training during the week was incredible, and that really helped us win against Bonnyrigg,? Calleja said. ?We went into the match with a plan to put pressure on them and I?m very happy with how the boys played. We have been good at making chances, and our main aim has been to not concede. Fortunately, both came together on the night.?
The game began as an arm-wrestle, with both sides feeling each other out before Kurt Crnic pounced on a Bonnyrigg defensive error on the half-hour mark to put the Saints in front 1-0. The home side extended their lead on the stroke of halftime when Simon Verrender headed home a Matt Demetriou free kick to make it 2-0. Bonnyrigg made the St George defence sweat a little in the second half, but the Saints were able to hold on for a ground-breaking win.
?I thought it was a six-point game as it?s always tough to get any points off Bonnyrigg,? Calleja said, ?And the win gives the competition a bit of life. It shows that [the White Eagles] aren?t infallible and if we can beat team then, hopefully, other teams can do it. Of course, it could go the other way and snap Bonnyrigg back into action as well.?
It was the first loss White Eagles coach Blagoja Kulevski had to speak about this season, and while he wasn?t happy with the result, Kulevski wasn?t getting carried away with the moment. ?St George is a very good side, but the boys came into the game thinking they can win it. But they still have to work hard because no games will be handed to us.?
?The ground was a bit slippery and I think St George benefited from that. It wasn?t that they were better than us; my players didn?t adjust to the conditions as well as they did, and two mistakes led to their goals. I?m a little worried with how the boys reacted. They were disappointed, but it is just one game, it?s not that special that we lose one game. We have to use it as motivation to come back next week against North Tigers, which to me is the biggest game of the year.?
Parramatta overthrow Rockdale
PCYC Parramatta Eagles made it four straight Super League victories over Rockdale City Suns, winning 2-0 at Melita Stadium on Sunday afternoon to creep to within three points of Bonnyrigg at the top of the leaderboard. Held to a 2-2 draw by Fairfield last week, Parramatta scored goals in each half against Rockdale to continue their competition momentum. Coach Jason Falzon was delighted with the effort.
?We were not at out best last weekend, and the boys put in a very good performance to turn it around. To have everybody switched on, I can?t say enough about the players, who all worked very hard,? he said. ?We put a lot of pressure on them and had a lot of possession, and I felt like we were in control of the game. I?ve been happy with our form, especially from when we lost three in a row about a month ago, and if we keep doing what we?re doing, I think we can do great things this year.?
Both sides had shots at goal before Michael Fallah popped in a goal for Parramatta minutes before the halftime whistle. The Eagles maintained their dominance in the second term and Mario Ghobrial made sure of all three points when he added a second goal for the home side with 12 minutes left on the clock.
Liverpool down the Coast
Bossy Liverpool ended a five week run without scoring to beat Central Coast Lightning 2-0 at Ernie Smith Reserve on Sunday afternoon. But it certainly wasn?t made easy for the home side with Bossy’s classy goalkeeper Ivan Kovacevic came off injured. Liverpool coach Mile Todorovski had already replaced stopper Asken Oygur when he was forced to send reserve keeper Joe Mamou onto the field, leaving him with one substitution for the rest of the game.
But Mamou was superb and his stops helped secure Bossy?s first win since round five and equal-third position on the table. It was also only the second time the Lightning had been held scoreless this year. Adam Kir scored the first goal after 27 minutes for Liverpool, and Sam Awad?s 88th minute strike sealed the victory that Todorovski said will lift the team.
?We were down to 10 men and I had lost one of my best defenders. It seemed like we were just going from trouble to trouble,? he said. ?It?s not easy to play with a man down against a talented team like Central Coast, who played very good football, and I feel sorry for their coach [John McLafferty] because I have found myself in his position many times. I know how he feels. In the second half, all the time they have the position. There are not big problems at the club, and we are going forward.?
Rage upset Tigers
Granville Rage journeyed home from Mills Park with the spoils of victory after grinding out a 2-0 win over a hapless Northern Tigers outfit on Sunday afternoon. Granville ended a four match losing sequence against the Tigers, and leapfrogged their opponents into the top-five in the process. Northern now have a week to turn things around before facing a disappointed Bonnyrigg side in the grand final replay.
Christian Bottalico fired Granville to a dream start when he blasted past the Tigers keeper from outside the box on three minutes, and Nenos Bobo finished the Tigers off with a late breakaway goal. Rage coach Lee Sterrey said it was an important result, particularly with all the mid-table teams fighting for points. It was also a great response to Granville?s heart-breaking 4-3 midweek Cup knockout loss to Premier League club Apia Leichhardt.
?We really wanted to make it a fresh start to the second half of the season and needed to bounce back straight away from last week?s disappointment [a 1-0 loss to St George],? he said. ?So we decided to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch, and to beat the Tigers away from home is a fantastic effort. What we need to do now is put some back-to-back wins together and get some consistency into our performances.?
?To beat a quality side like Northern Tigers is a good boost. [Tigers coach] Hugh McCrory has them well-organised. But we worked hard to get ourselves back into the picture, and I thought we handled ourselves well in what were miserable conditions at Mills Park. The younger players also seem to be coming along and taking their opportunities.?
Rangers defeat Uni
Mount Druitt Town Rangers kept their surge up the table going with a strong 3-0 away win over Sydney University on Sunday afternoon. It was Mount Druitt?s first ever Super League win over Uni and positioned them within three points of an historic top-five place, a remarkable achievement given their methodical start to the season.
The Rangers took the lead in the 21st minute and never looked back, doubling the advantage just after halftime and clinching the win with a third goal inside the closing half-hour. Coach Phil Pavela, suffering from a virus, was pleased he didn?t have to overwork his sick and sore throat. He said reaching the finals in their second year of Super League was a very attainable goal.
?I didn?t have to bark at them too much, they pretty much did everything right,? he said. ?Right now, more than anything, the win gives the players much-needed confidence. We didn?t have a good start to the year, and had been missing a lot of chances. Now, it feels like we are putting the goals away and getting a bit of luck. The boys feel they can beat teams, and they are capable of doing that. I?m confident we can still make the top-five.?
Dragons snuff out Lions
Fraser Park Dragons continued their Super League dominance over Fairfield City Lions, coming from behind to win 2-1 win at Fraser Park on Sunday afternoon. The Dragons have now bagged four wins from six League match-ups with Fairfield, and look quite healthy in fifth position on the points ladder, equal with Granville.
The Lions started brilliantly and led 1-0 after four minutes from a Malik Bideratan score, and it looked like the visitors would go to the break holding onto that scoreline until Greg Collins stepped up for Fraser Park with a goal right on halftime. Dani Delgado put the Dragons in front not long after the restart and Fraser Park held on for a gritty win.
It took Collins? season total to a team-best six goals, while Delgado?s effort made him Fraser Park?s 11th goalscorer this season, the most of any team in the league. Fairfield, after showing signs of improvement over the past month, look grim in bottom place. They are two points behind Uni and Central Coast, but have played an extra game.
This week?s games
The NSW Super League continues with Saturday night the star attraction of round 13 action. Fairfield and Liverpool play a cross-town derby at Norford Park, while down the road at Bonnyrigg it?s the grand final replay between the White Eagles and Northern Tigers. Also on Saturday, Central Coast welcomes St George to Pluim Park, and Sydney Uni tackle Granville at Garside Park. On Sunday afternoon, Fraser Park visit the Suns at Rockdale, and Mount Druitt host Parramatta at Popondetta Park.
Total goals: 193 (1 own goals)
Total games: 66
Goals per game: 2.92 (16.1 goals per team)
Total scorers: 89
Round 12 results
St George Saints (Kurt Crnic 34m Simon Verrender 45m) Bonnyrigg White Eagles 0
Bossy Liverpool 2 Central Coast Lightning 0
Northern Tigers 0 Granville Rage 2 (Christian Bottalico 3m Nenos Bobo 86m)
Sydney University 0 Mount Druitt Town Rangers 3 (B Mitrovich 21/63m L Berbis 49m)
PCYC Parramatta Eagles 2 (Michael Fallah 43m Mario Ghobrial 78m) Rockdale City Suns 0
Fraser Park Dragons 2 (Greg Collins 45m Dani Delgado 53m) Fairfield City Lions 1 (Malik Bideratan 4m)
-By Daniel De Nardi