The Manildra Rhinos made Cargo pay for its severe lack of discipline at Jack Huxley Oval on Sunday afternoon, closing out a 34-18 victory and shooting to the top of the Woodbridge Cup standings as a result.
The two sides had been locked in a fierce battle for top spot leading in but Manildra took advantage of a lopsided penalty count to run in seven tries to four and move two points ahead of the Blue Heelers.
The Rhinos led 14-8 at half-time and worked their way to a 26-14 lead with just 20 minutes to go, before Cargo crossed to cut the deficit to eight.
But then the wheels came off for the Blue Heelers.
Matty Fuller was sin-binned and Cargo gave away a bucketload of penalties, Manildra seizing its chances and scoring twice in the dying stages to secure the 16-point triumph.
“It was a good win, a few errors in the first half didn’t help us but we got the job done in the end. It’s always a hard game against Cargo, a bit of a grudge match, so it’s always good to get over the top of them,” Manildra skipper and halfback Mitch Gibson said, before conceding the sheer amount of penalties Cargo conceded gave his side a real leg up.
“In this competition you can’t really be talking to the referee or any of that sort of stuff, but we were pretty well disciplined and I was really happy with the way we went about it.
“That [puts us on top now] and that’s where we want to be so hopefully we can stay there in the next few weeks and have a good crack at the finals.”
In the first set of the game Fuller plonked his kick out on the full, gifting Manildra an early chance which the Rhinos took gleefully.
Utilising an outrageous five-on-one overlap, Epa Navale Snr strolled over.
Gibson missed the kick, and although Manildra controlled the next 10 minutes Cargo scored next through Steve Nean. He dived over in the left corner after a Rhinos knock-on.
McLean missed the kick, leaving the game locked up at 4-all.
Steve Maere gave the Blue Heelers an 8-4 lead five minutes later after another Manildra error, but McLean sprayed his shot again.
Manildra took ascendancy again through back-to-back tries to Harry Gersbach and Grant Williams. The former was a just reward for Gersbach, who was among the best on the paddock.
Gibson kicked one from two, giving the Rhinos a narrow 14-8 lead at half-time.
Cargo scored first after the break, through the evergreen William ‘Bubba’ Kennedy.
Manildra let the wobbly restart bounce. It did so perfectly for Cargo, the Blue Heelers swooped and Kennedy latched onto the final pass before speeding to the line for the first of two tries he second in the second half.
McLean’s conversion, his only successful one of the day, locked the clash up at 14-all.
Then the penalties came, and came, and came.
Time and again the Blue Heelers were punished, mainly in the ruck, much to their faithful crowd’s dismay.
Tireless Manildra prop Jack Gibson scored a quick-fire double to give the home side a 26-14 buffer and then Fuller was sin-binned for giving the referee a spray after he awarded the home side another penalty.
However, despite being down the 12 it was Cargo that scored next.
After Manildra dropped the ball over the line – for the second time – and then conceded a penalty Cargo ate metres in the resulting set, before Kennedy found space and crossed for his second.
But, with the game firmly in the balance at 26-18, the Blue Heelers couldn’t find the stripe again.
They had plenty of chances, at one stage attacking Manildra’s line for two consecutive sets, but couldn’t finish.
Manildra did cross again, twice.
Brock Campbell skipped over and then Kaleb Mullins did too – both through Cargo’s right edge – to close out the 34-18 victory.
- MANILDRA RHINOS 34 (Jack Gibson 2, Harry Gersbach, Grant Williams, Epa Navale Snr, Brock Campbell, Kaleb Mullins tries; Mitch Gibson 3 goals) def CARGO BLUE HEELERS 18 (Bubba Kennedy 2, Steve Nean, Steve Maere tries; Matt McLean goal)