THE Port Kembla Blacks have set the proverbial cat among the pigeons in the race for semi-final spots after producing their best performance of the season to down co-competition leaders Jamberoo Superoos 20-18 on their home track at Kevin Walsh Oval on Sunday.
The hot-and-cold Blacks came prepared to match the physical Superoos and the game turned into a cut-and-thrust encounter after the visitors led 14-12 at half-time and managed to keep the Superoos to just six points in the second half, despite many close-calls, to hold on for an important win, which now puts them just two points outside the top five.
The result also leaves four teams sharing top spot on the table after 10 rounds.
The Blacks started at a frantic pace and went close to scoring in the fifth minute, only ruined by forward pass, but they didn’t have to wait long before outstanding back-rower Will Homer was able to crash his way over.
Five-eighth Mitchell Rosser landed the conversion and then a close-range penalty for an 8-nil lead.
The home side soon had their first points when a slick left-side attack saw second-rower Corey Grigg find space to score out wide.
Dean Watling landed a fine conversion to close the gap to just two.
The Blacks next try which was tinged with controversy when a Jamberoo attacker appeared to be taken high and Port winger Alex Love scooped up the ball and raced away to score.
Rosser was on target again and the Blacks led 14-6.
The Superoos suffered a big blow at the same time when they lost hooker James Asquith, who was playing his first game in a month, with a shoulder injury.
With half-time approaching, it was Jamberoo who hit back again, with fullback Mark Asquith managing to reach out to score from close range and Watling was again on target for a half-time scoreline of 14-12.
The home side came out looking more determined after the break and Port somehow managed to defend several sets of six on the line as Jamberoo’s normally free-flowing attack was stymied by resolute Blacks defence.
It wasn’t until the 65th minute Port took advantage of a mid-field offload that saw Simon spear in to open spaces and found fullback Tamati Ulukita backing up, and despite being dragged down short, somehow managed to ground the ball for a vital four-pointer.
Rosser converted as Superoos Corey Grigg was dispatched to the sin-bin by referee McInerney.
Just when it looked like the Blacks were going to win comfortably, there was one last twist when, with three minutes remaining, Jono Dallas put centre Jake Clarke over and Watlng’s conversion closed the gap to two, but it proved too little, too late for the home side.
In a tough game, Will Homer and Mark Simon were outstanding for the Blacks and were well supported by Mitchell Rosser, Kurtis Jackson and Kaine Edwards, while Luke Asquith, Aaron Grigg, James Gilmore and Jake Clarke tried hard to rally the Superoos.