REAL NRL: Wests crush Central to hold top spot for play-offs

REAL NRL: Wests crush Central Action from the Real NRL game Central v Wests on Sunday. Wests celebrate. Photo by Marina Neil

Action from the Real NRL game Central v Wests on Sunday. Wests celebrate. Photo by Marina Neil

Action from the Real NRL game Central v Wests on Sunday. Wests #12 Matt Herman. Photo by Marina Neil

Action from the Real NRL game Central v Wests on Sunday. Wests #12 Matt Herman tackled by Central #6 Ethan Cook.Photo by Marina Neil

Action from the Real NRL game Central v Wests on Sunday. Wests #9 Chris Knight. Photo by Marina Neil

TweetFacebookWESTERN Suburbs coach Dean Botham asked his players how badly they wanted the Newcastle Rugby League minor premiership.

On Sunday, the Rosellas delivered an emphatic response by beating Central 44-18 at St John Oval to secure a third-straight minor title and the club championship.

Lakes United’s 36-4 win on Saturday over Souths gave the Seagulls a superior for and against, and meant Wests required at least a draw to remain in first place before next weekend’s semi-finals.

‘‘I said, ‘How bad do you want it. Show me your desperation’,’’ Botham said.

‘‘It was about going out and earning some respect today.’’

Wests had been far from convincing over the past month, but they played with more fluency in attack.

Centre Simon Williams opened with two tries and props Ryan Petro and Mark Taufua and winger Ryan Lamb all crossed the chalk for a 26-6 lead at half-time.

‘‘I’m a bit wary of showing too much during the year to our opposition so we did change a few little things and the boys quite liked those changes and they seemed to gel,’’ Botham said.

The attacking flair continued in the second half as Wests piled on tries from Callan Richardson (two) and Matt Herman.

Butcher Boys winger Liam Boney scored off a bomb and prop Jarome Wilson barged over, but the home side never threatened the defending premiers.

Souths’ loss guaranteed Central safe passage through to a second consecutive finals series, so captain-coach Rowan Kelly opted to rest Cruise Wilson, Brett Jarrett, Tim Penny and Matt Baker, who have niggles.

Central face the Goannas at Cessnock Sportsground in the elimination semi-final, which will likely be held on Saturday.

‘‘I’m disappointed we lost, as you don’t want to lose in front of your home fans, but in the end we’ve got to dust ourselves off and prepare for next week,’’ Kelly said.

Not even a 70-minute performance from former international and NSW State of Origin second-rower, Andrew Ryan, and a large Sleapy’s Day crowd could inspire Souths to keep their semi-final hopes live.

Lakes piled on 26 unanswered points in the second half against the Lions.

Ryan started the match, just his third since retiring from Canterbury in 2011, and he was still among Souths’ top performers.

Both sides were scrappy in the opening 40 minutes, before Lakes took control following a Souths mistake off the first set of the second half.

Fullback Jack Mackin scored off a backline move, then prop Tim Harlow and centre Josh Charles crossed for tries within 10 minutes to blow the score out to 24-4.

It was the Lions’ fourth straight loss after they spent the majority of the season in the top four.

Macquarie coach Barrie Moore believes his side are carrying superior form into the semi-finals than in past years after defeating Maitland 42-20 at Maitland Sportsground.

The victory and the Goannas’ 28-20 loss to Kurri Kurri at Cessnock Sportsground allowed the Scorpions to steal third spot and a second shot in the finals.

The Scorpions will play Lakes in the qualifying semi-final at Cahill Oval.

Macquarie have lost six straight semi-final matches since 2012, but Moore believes that is about to change.

‘‘Every year it happens and we worry about this thing about the semis, but we’ve got some good form going at the moment,’’ Moore said.

Halfback Mick Moran was rested due to a shoulder niggle and teenager Travis Edwards was impressive as his replacement.

Cessnock’s pre-finals form has been less convincing. The Goannas have lost five of their past seven games.

Their horror injury toll was further compounded by prop Alec Fata breaking his arm and centre Brendan Williams was heavily concussed.

The Goannas led 20-6 at half-time, but conceded off the second-half kick-off and from there Bulldogs stormed to victory to avoid the wooden spoon.

‘‘I just thought we were poor in the first half, let alone the second half,’’ Cessnock coach Craig Miller said.

‘‘We need to regather really quickly. I just don’t think a performance like that will get us past next week, it was as poor a performance I’ve been a part of.’’

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