NHRU: Lake Macquarie Roos downed in elimination semi draw with Greens

RESILIENT: The Lake Macquarie Roos wrapped up their 2019 season on Sunday following a tense 27-all draw with Merewether in the premier one elimination final. Picture: Stewart Hazell
RESILIENT: The Lake Macquarie Roos wrapped up their 2019 season on Sunday following a tense 27-all draw with Merewether in the premier one elimination final. Picture: Stewart Hazell

Lake Macquarie coach Gareth Polamo was full of praise for the Roos who, despite drawing with Merewether at the weekend, were knocked out of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union finals based on ladder position.

Merewether and Lake Macquarie played out a tense 27-all draw in the elimination semi-final at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday.

Under the NHRU laws, there is no extra-time and the team positioned higher on the ladder progresses.

As a result, fourth-placed Merewether will now meet Maitland in the minor semi-final at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday.

The Roos finished the 2019 season sitting fifth on the ladder with nine wins from 16 games.

"It shows the resilience of the guys and the courage to come back like that," Polamo said, who had Josh Nicko and Jordan Leota sent to sinbin in the second half of Sunday's game and lost Sapati Peniata and Dylan Heins to injury.

"We had a few injuries as well, but they dug in and threw everything at it.

"There was nothing more I could ask for.

"Credit to Merewether, they go through and we wish them the best of luck. We knew the rules beforehand."

Relieved co-coach Mick Gill was happy to "take it" after Merewether kept their NHRU season alive but he was quick to point out the Greens had "a lot of room for improvement".

"We'll take it," Gill said. "It wasn't convincing, that's for sure, but we will build on it. There is a lot of room for improvement."

Merewether led 10-3 early, 17-10 at half-time, 22-10 after 50 minutes and 27-15 midway through the second half, but couldn't shake a dogged Lake Macquarie.

Hayden Petersen, who threatened every time he touched the ball, reached out to score a try after a good work from replacement Tim Poese to close the gap to 27-20 in the 65th minute.

They dug in and threw everything at it. There was nothing more I could ask for.

- Gareth Polamo

Then, with five minutes remaining, Mika Iopa produced a brilliant around-the-corner pass for teenage winger to race over 10 metres in from the touchline.

Kirisome Laulala converted to level the scores.

The Roos had momentum and they had a final chance to snatch a win with a scrum feed on halfway.

But the scrum was shunted backwards and Merewether were awarded a penalty.

With time up, Ed Clifton took a tap and the ball was kicked into touch.

"We just couldn't land those blows when we got up by 10 and 12 points," Gill said.

"We couldn't land that third blow.

"The scrum was unreal but in terms of football, there is room for improvement."

The game was held up for 10 minutes early in the second half due to an injury to Merewether prop Tyson Watene, who was knocked out cold after getting his head in the wrong position attempting a tackle on Peniata.

Though disappointed to bow out, Polamo was proud of the progress of the Roos, who didn't win a game in 2018 and were in danger of being dropped to divisional rugby.

"To get to the semi-finals is an achievement in itself," Polamo said.

"We would have liked to go a bit further but that is how the game goes.

"We will have a few drinks and see where we are at as a group and what the guys want to do next year.

"I'm not sure what the club wants to do in terms of my position.

"I will let it play out and see where we go."

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