KIAMA Knights have taken a massive step to securing a VB South Coast Rugby League semi-final spot after holding on for a thrilling 24-22 win over Berry Magpies at Berry Showground on Saturday.
The loss has ended the Magpies flickering semi-final hopes and moved the Knights into clear fourth spot with two rounds remaining and need just one more win from their games against Milton-Ulladulla or Albion Park-Oak Flats to wrap up a semi-final spot.
The Magpies got a great start to the game when back-rower Jack Payne opened the scoring with a barnstorming try which was converted by Josh Coulter, only to see the Knights hit back just five minutes later when a bad read in defence near the line allowed Knights prop Lachlan Whittaker to dive over under the posts. Jack Alexander converted to tie the scores at 6-all.
The Magpies seemed to be ‘out-enthusing’ the visitors and veteran Trent Burns showed his undoubted ball skills with a superb pass to skipper Nathan Benney who scored out wide.
Ten minutes later half Joe Rogers threw a great cut-out pass that found winger Brent Marando unmarked, and at 16-6 it looked like the home side were well on the way to an upset win.
But the Knights then produced one of the tries of the season when they ran the ball on the last tackle and fullback Tom Atkins, winger Jay Delaney and centre James Gilmore combined and found skipper Marc Laird backing up to score under the posts. Gilmore’s final flick pass was a gem and with Alexander converting the Knights had the momentum running their way leading to the break, despite trailing 16-12.
Kiama continued to lift after the break and just five minutes into the second half had the lead when after some concerted pressure Laird squeezed his way over under the posts and the conversion put his side in front for the first time.
The game then settled into a game of wills as both sides tried to take the winning advantage and with 15 minutes remaining the Knights struck again with their second superb try that was highlighted by winger Mitch Ellis hurtling a falled Berry defender and sent a reverse pass to James Gilmore who scored. Alexander again converted to give the Knights a 24-16 lead.
But to their credit the Magpies launched a late rally which resulted in classy young centre Lloyd Sharpe scoring out wide and Coulter landed a great conversion, making for a very nervous last five minutes for the Knights before they held on to take the points.
In a great team effort, Laird, Cam Whittaker, Simon Dean and Ben Wade had big games for the Knights, while Joe Rogers, Dan Payne, Burns and Benney were best games for the Magpies.