Casuarina require just one more win and a bonus point to secure their sixth Minor Premiership in seven years after a comprehensive 38-22 victory over University at Rugby Park last night.
The Cougars got off to a perfect start with a turnover from the kick-off and a few minutes later winger TJ Norris crossed for a try.
Nate Lamb converted and the home side had a 7-0 lead.
The Pirates were quick to respond when Dave Taylor won a race for the ball from a grubber kick to the in-goal by Robert Butcher.
Play then settled down with both sides not giving an inch in defence and keen to throw ball wide and make a spectacle of the match.
Simaika Sala ’a beat two defenders down the left flank to score and Lamb’s conversion took the Cougars out to a 14-5 lead.
Casuarina were reduced to 14 players when loose forward Bobby Nurse was dispensed to the sin bin and University were quick to take advantage.
Powerful inside centre Isaac Taulelei fended off four would be tacklers in a 40 metre run to the try line and with Butcher’s conversion the Pirates trailed by two points at the break.
University took the lead early in the second half via a penalty goal from Butcher.
Their lead lasted 15 minutes before Eric Ericson crashed over for a try which was converted by Lamb.
University then went off the boil with Shane Crowley racing 40 metres untouched to score followed by cross field kick by Lamb to Norris who found McMurray in support and then Crowley got his second try from a quick penalty tap and in the space of twelve minutes had conceded seventeen points.
The Pirates regained their composure and Taulelei scored his second try and Butcher’s conversion were the last points of an enthralling game.
The Casuarina camp will be buoyed by the victory and the direction Lamb provided the back-line in his first game since an injury in Round 3 while Isaiah McLeod had a strong game back in the top grade for the first time since a debilitating knee injury at the start of last season.
Next door at Warren Park South Darwin defeated Darwin Dragons 34-13 and hold on to second position on the ladder.
Casuarina take on Palmerston next week while University will play the Dragons.
Casuarina 38: S Crowley 2, R McMurray, T Norris, E Ericson, S Sala’a Tries N Lamb 4 Conv Def University 22: I Taulelei 2 D Taylor Tries R Butcher 2 Conv, 1 Pen.
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