Newcastle rugby league: Pickers sting Scorpions as Wests all but seal minor premiership

HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE: Maitland prop Dane Tilse stands in a tackle in the Pickers' come-from-behind 22-14 win over Macquarie at Coronation Oval. Pictures: Simone De Peak

HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE: Maitland prop Dane Tilse stands in a tackle in the Pickers' come-from-behind 22-14 win over Macquarie at Coronation Oval. Pictures: Simone De Peak

MAITLAND coach Trevor Ott reckoned they were owed a win against Macquarie. His opposite Adam Bettridge believed it taught the Scorpions that you can’t take short cuts.

HEAD ON: Maitland's Luke Mercer was forced from the field with a neck injury.

HEAD ON: Maitland's Luke Mercer was forced from the field with a neck injury.

However, it was Western Suburbs, who benefited most from the Pickers’ upset 22-14 win over Macquarie at Coronation Oval on Saturday.

The Rosellas had no such problems, winning a hard-fought contest with Cessnock 28-18 at Cessnock Sportsground to all but wrap up the minor premiership.

ON THE CHARGE: Macquarie's Randall Briggs brushes off the defence.

ON THE CHARGE: Macquarie's Randall Briggs brushes off the defence.

They moved to 24 points, four points clear and a 212-point better differential than Macquarie, with two rounds to play.

“We set the minor premiership as a goal once we got to the halfway point of the year and knew where we were at,” Wests coach Matt Lantry said. “It is recognition for our hard work. We go straight to the major semi and gives us a chance of having a direct route into the grand final.”

Ott was simply glad to get a reward for the Picker’s effort.

They had lost the two previous encounters with Macquarie by two points, going down 28-26 in round two and 26-24 in round 10.

They had to do it the hard way on Saturday. They trailed 10-6 at half-time and had Luke Mercer and Jacob Sinclair taken to hospital with neck injuries. Both were later cleared of serious damage.

“I thought we were a bit unlucky in the previous two losses and to get the win was highly deserved,” Ott said. “They played pretty tough. We had Luke Mercer and Jacob Sinclair laying on stretchers each with their neck in a brace for the final 25 minute waiting for an ambulance. We hung in there and defended the best we have all year. Tyler Carter at lock was good and Dane Tilse led the way up front.”

Tilse was one of four players sent to the bin. He had a fight with Scott Briggs which Randall Briggs also got involved in. Maitland also lost Jayden Butterfield for a professional foul.

Bettridge believed the Scorpions’ first half cost the visitors despite going to the break 10-6 ahead.

“Credit to Maitland, they were good,” he said. “We had a strong breeze in the first half and only put on 10 points. It was a good lesson for our boys. It doesn’t matter what roster you have or who you are playing, if you think you can turn up and take a few short cuts, you are not going to win the game. Credit to Trevor and his boys, they keep turning up and putting the effort in. They deserved the two points.”

At Cessnock, Wests had to work hard to overcome a spirited, albeit under-manned Goannas outfit.

“It was good in patches,” Lantry said. “I wouldn’t say it was a complete 80-minute performance but Cessnock is a tough road trip. They are a different side at home and they challenged us. They had Jordy Worboys, Pat Warden and Cody Brooks out, three of their main crew. But it doesn’t matter who wears the Cessnock jumper at home, they grow another leg. A month ago we were down 10-4 at half-time, this week we lead 12-6. We blew them away after half-time and got our to 28-6 before they hit back to apply a bit of pressure at the end.”

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