A STRONG first half defensive performance helped the Newcastle Wanderers to take out the men’s cup final at the Building Durability Bathurst 10s on Saturday, upsetting Eastern Suburbs 12-7.
Easts had won the first two editions of the tournament at Ashwood Park and after dominating their six-minutes each way round games, looked set to make it a title treble.
But while Easts controlled possession in the first half of the decider, it had just one try to show for it as the Wanderers muscled up in defence.
The tournament newcomers were the first to score after the break before Mick Ashworth intercept handed them the lead.
READ MORE: Bathurst 10s in photos
Skipper Marcus Christensen, an Australian Country Stockman representative, was delighted with the result.
“We didn’t come here with any expectations, we just wanted to come here and have a good weekend, so winning was a bonus. We weren’t really worried about them, we just wanted to play our own brand of footy, tough footy, and did a pretty good job,” the lock said.
“They had the ball pretty much the whole game, we had to do a lot in defence, but we just kept turning up which was good.
“We were confident, we didn’t have any ball in that first half but we were still so close. We knew eventually it would turn and it didn’t have to turn that much, we got an intercept try and that other try when we finally got the ball.
“We were confident that if we got the ball we could turn it around and we did. We had limited opportunities, but we made the most of them.”
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An Easts outfit which included the likes of Bathurst’s Charlie Clifton and Orange’s Jack Grant began the cup final in impressive fashion.
Driving straight down field, Easts pressured the Wanderers line, probing with long cut-out passes and speed around the ruck.
But while creating overlaps and being camped inside the Wanderers’ 22 for all but the final seconds of the opening half, Easts only had one try to show for it.
Just 29 seconds into the second half Easts’ lead was cut to two as the speed of winger Ed Gregory down the left flank got Wanderers on the board.
Soon after Ashworth’s intercept and subsequent conversion from in front of the sticks handed his side a 12-7 lead.
With a minute remaining Easts was gifted one last chance when a Wanderers player was penalised for being off his feet in the ruck.
Easts quickly worked from halfway to within reach of the Wanderers’ line, but their rivals’ work at the breakdown saw the chance go begging.
“I played for Parramatta for a few years and didn't have any luck beating Easts when I played there, so it was good beating them here,” Christensen said.
“We went to Orange earlier in the year and we won that, the Orange 10s, and we had a really good time out here. I did a bit of research and found this Bathurst tournament, so we decided to come back. For sure we’ll be back next year, definitely, we’ve had a great time.”