Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles hooker Cade Cust crossed for a hat-trick of tries in the 48-20 win over the North Sydney Bears at HE Laybutt Field, Blacktown, today.
The opening round NSW Cup match, played in wet conditions, was a gritty affair until a send-off saw the game turned on its head.
Blacktown showed they were on song defensively early to keep the Bears out with full-back Dylan Smith gathering up a grubber kick to keep the visitors out.
North Sydney had a massive opportunity in the sixth minute after a sloppy error from the home side in their own 10 but were unlucky in their attack with prop Tukupa-Ke Hau Tapuha dropping the ball just shy of the line.
The Sea Eagles continued to attack with high balls for their last tackle option, as both full-backs battled in the air for the ball. Blacktown regained possession and had another set at the line before prop Toff Sipley crashed over off the back of a short ball. Five-eighth Brad Keighran converted for a 6-0 scoreline after 10 minutes.
Another high ball from the Blacktown side led to an error, giving them another set in the Bears’ territory. Cust found an opportunity and burrowed under the defence to find the line four minutes later. Keighran converted to extend the lead to 12-0.
Some strong defence from Blacktown in the 18th minute forced an error, but a loss of emotion led to a penalty being given against them, giving North Sydney possession.
Winger Matt Ikuvalu pounced on the chance, scoring in the corner thanks to a well-timed pass from five-eighth Sam Walker. Walker converted from the sideline for a 12-6 scoreline.
Four minutes later, Cust scooped the ball up out of dummy half and passed to lock Zac Saddler who found an easy hole in the defence, scoring Blacktown’s third try of the game. Keighran converted to extend their lead to 18-6.
North Sydney’s Ikuvalu took the ball well under a high ball but wasn’t able to maintain possession as he went to ground, giving the home side another set of six. Some rushed play and a flick pass from halfback Josh Schuster nearly resulted in another try, only for North Sydney to hold on with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
An accidental offside penalty from Sea Eagles forward Terrell May gave the away side a set 20 metres out, ultimately being denied by some strong defence and a good take under the high ball from Blacktown centre Morgan Harper.
A big hit from Sea Eagles second rower Haumole Olakau'atu looked to scupper North Sydney’s chance but an error from winger Tim Simona gave the Bears a lifeline. Walker capitalised on the given chance, finding marquee young gun Joseph Suaalii who crossed over for his first NSW Cup try with three minutes remaining. Walker failed to convert to leave Blacktown leading 18-10 at the break.
An early penalty gave Blacktown the first opportunity of the second half. Some quick passes to the left edge and an excellent held up pass from half-back Josh Schuster gave centre Christian Tuipulotu an easy try in the 42nd minute. Keighran converted to make the score 24-10.
North Sydney replied with a nice set of six after forcing an error and a repeat set. Some more good passing play from Bears five-eighth Walker resulted in a near try, with winger Sione Hopoate unable to hold onto the ball in his diving efforts in the corner.
In the 49th minute, the Bears got back into the game as Suaalii leapt into the air to beat Simona to the ball to reach over the line, scoring his second try of the game. Walker failed to convert from the sideline for a 24-14 scoreline.
The momentum continued to switch as North Sydney scored again eight minutes later, with Walker finding his way through the line with some nice footwork before finding second rower Naufahu Whyte who crashed over for a try, hurting himself in the process. Walker converted to leave the Bears trailing 24-20.
Olakau’atu then left the field with a left arm injury as mayhem followed. Ikuvalu was sent off for the incident in the tackle and Blacktown took advantage of the 12 man Bears team.
Saddler found the line to score in the 60th minute to extend the home side's lead. In the events that followed the try, winger Morgan Harper was sin-binned and Keighran converted to give Blacktown a 30-20 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining, Cust scooped the ball up to fool defenders with a dummy pass before wrestling over to score his second try. Keighran converted for a 36-20 lead.
Minutes later, Cust dived over for his hat-trick, coming off the back of a strong set from Blacktown’s forwards. Keighran converted to extend the lead to 42-20.
Sipley then ran a short ball and wrestled past three defenders to find the line under the posts, scoring his second try of the game in the 77th minute. Keighran converted as the siren sounded for the 48-20 scoreline.
Blacktown Workers Coach Matt Ballin will be looking to build on the win when they meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Lottoland on Saturday, March 20, at 3.15pm.