The Maitland Blacks have claimed their first win at Passmore Oval in recent memory after fullback Jono O’Toole produced a game-saving tackle on the bell in a dramatic 30-29 upset victory over the Hamilton Hawks.
O’Toole, as the last man in defence, sprinted cross field to reel in flying Hawks centre Eric Vasukicakau and tackle him over the sideline 40 metres out on the grandstand side of the field.
It was the last play of the day and ensured the Blacks would not leave the venue empty handed like they have each year since at least 2008.
“To beat them down there is a big thing,” Blacks coach Bobby Tynan said.
“I had a look at the records when I got home and we haven’t won there since 2008.
“To be honest, I’m not sure the last time we did.”
That was before Saturday and round 12 of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union first grade competition in 2014.
The Blacks held on to defeat their more-fancied rivals and keep their finals hopes alive, now sitting on 32 points and seven adrift of the top five with six matches remaining.
Not only that, but for one of the few times this season the Blacks were
able to get across the line in a close encounter.
“Five of our losses this year have been by eight points or less,” Tynan said.
“That makes all the difference to were we are on the points table.
“We still need a bit of a miracle to make the semis and we can’t afford to drop any from here, but we have given ourselves a chance.”
And as for “that” tackle from O’Toole.
“That will go down as tackle of the year,” Tynan said.
Before that O’Toole had kicked a penalty goal to give the Blacks an eight-point advantage but the Hawks struck back courtesy of a converted try inside the final 10 minutes to make it a tense race to the finish line
“We had to tough it out to hold them out,” Tynan said.
“We let them back in, but we got there in the end.”
Blacks’ best and fairest flyhalf Josh McCormack scored a try from a play that started inside their own 22 but the Hawks led 15-13 at the break.
The seesawing contest continued in the second stanza with Jono Wotton, who picked up three Anderson Medal points, and Josh Gray scoring tries in the second half.
O’Toole kicked three conversions and three penalty goals.
The Blacks left Passmore Oval without a loss on Saturday with first, second and third grades all successful, while colts played out a draw along with the old boys in their exhibition match.
In other first grade fixtures from round 12, teams racked up big winning scores with The Waratahs thrashing Lake Macquarie 72-10, Wanderers smashing University 57-10, Merewether Carlton breezing past Easts 57-17 while Southern Beaches getting the better of Nelson Bay 43-19.
MAITLAND 30 (Jono Wotton, Josh Gray, Josh McCormack tries; Jono O’Toole 3 penalties; O’Toole 3 conversions) defeated HAMILTON 29 (Matt Ferry, Eric Vaisagote, Rob Smith, Laufiso Vaisagote tries; Jason Keelan penalty; Keelan 3 conversions)
LADDER: Wanderers 63; Hamilton 51; The Waratahs 44; Southern Beaches 42; Merewether Carlton 39; Nelson Bay 34; Maitland 32; Easts 14; University 11; Lake Macquarie 8