Western Suburbs Magpies have missed the chance to sit outright second on the Intrust Super Premiership ladder, going down 28-8 to Mounties RLFC today.
Coming in to the match level on points with Mounties, Brett Hodgson's side fell behind early off the back of a 7-1 penalty count inside the opening 30 minutes and simply didn't have enough in the tank to run down their opponents late on, with the visitors pulling away late to emerge with the two points.
Despite a stacked forward pack that featured close to 500 games of NRL experience, Western Suburbs couldn't overcome their opponents in what was their final home game of the year — slipping to fourth spot on the ladder with a tough run of six away games coming up to close out the regular season.
With a string of early penalties giving them good field position, Mounties were first to cross through Jordan Martin as a clever short side play on last tackle from Craig Garvey put the winger over untouched.
Taking over the kicking duties from the injured Brad Abbey, Taane Milne's conversion from out wide was waved away but he didn't would have to wait long to redeem himself, with Garvey slicing the Magpies open in the middle to score under the posts and give the visitors a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
A sixth penalty in the space of 25 minutes would allow Mounties the chance to extend their lead further with a penalty goal from in front as the home side struggled to get any possession and ascendency.
Looking like heading to the sheds at half-time down 12-0 a stunning end to the half from Western Suburbs and in particular, Tuimoala Lolohea, would see the Magpies run in two tries in the final three minutes.
Chiming in from the backline, Lolohea played a major part in tries to centres Toni Tali and Braden Robson but was unable to convert either from out wide, leaving the Mounties lead at the break at just four points.
Back from injury, Watson Heleta looked to have levelled the match five minutes in to the second half but a superb cover tackle from Sebastian Kris denied the Junior Kiwi the chance to touch down in the corner.
That would prove to be a pivotal swing in the game as, off the back of the error, Mounties would work the ball down field and restore their 10-point lead as Corey Horsburgh crashed over next to the posts.
Milne could have put the visitors further in front as Garvey created another short side overlap, but the former Wests Tigers recruit came up with an crucial error just metres out from the goal-line.
Still trailing by ten points, the job was made tougher for Western Suburbs as Lolohea (ribs) and Joseph Ratu (concussion) were both forced in quick succession, before Mounties all but put the game to bed with a try against the run of play through Ed Murphy — going over under the posts with 15 minutes remaining.
Milne's successful conversion blew the scoreline out to 24-8 in favour of the visitors, and it could have been more had Tyler Cornish been able to ground the ball with his darting run close to the line.
In the end, it would matter little for Mounties as they controlled the final stanza of the match well — running in another late try as Garvey once again split the defence open to send Brendan O'Hagan over and Mounties on their way to second spot on the Intrust Super Premiership ladder with six games left in the year.
Mounties RLFC 28 (Martin, Garvey, Horsburgh, Murphy, O'Hagan tries; Milne 4/5 goals) def. Western Suburbs Magpies 8 (Tali, Robson tries; Lolohea 0/2 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium