A 12-man Cessnock showed potential incoming coach Todd Edwards what they are capable of as the Goannas kept their semi-final aspirations alive with a spirited 23-12 victory over Lakes at Cahill Oval on Sunday.
The visitors came from behind to beat Edwards’ current side after Cessnock second-rower Kori Barber was sent off for a high swinging arm in the 59th minute, scoring back-to-back converted tries and a field goal in the closing stages of the Newcastle Rugby League round-13 encounter.
This result, the Goannas second straight win against top-five teams, puts the Coalfields club four points outside the top five with three games remaining in the regular season and comes as Edwards considers a return to his former stomping ground.
Edwards was recently released from the second-year of his contract at Lakes, who are now searching for a new mentor for 2019, after injured Cessnock captain-coach Al Lantry announced earlier this month he wouldn’t continue in the role next season.
“It [Lakes] is a great footy club and I love the club to death, but it’s just the travel,” Edwards told the Newcastle Herald.
“I can’t keep doing that, the kilometres and the hours.
“It’s looking that way [to coach at Cessnock again] and it just makes sense – I’m from there and played my juniors there.
“But right now I just want to continue getting a job done here [at Lakes]. I think we’re quite capable on our day, but it’s just being consistent and that performance today was terrible.”
Lakes relinquished the outright competition lead after being 12-10 up midway through the second half at Belmont on the weekend.
Barber was given his marching orders shortly after before Cessnock pair Blake Andrews and Josh Dimmock landed tries in the final 11 minutes. Dimmock added the extras and then fullback Harry O’Brien slotted a one pointer on full-time.
”That was a gutsy win,” Lantry said. “They all lifted after going down a man. Full credit to them.
“And today we completed at 96 percent.”
Over at Harker Oval on Sunday and a double to reigning player of the year Ryan Walker, who returned from injury, helped Western Suburbs hold off South Newcastle 22-16.
Lachlan Walmsley crossed twice for the defeated Lions, taking his season tally to 12 and extending his scoring streak to 10 in his last five appearances.
The Rosellas led 12-8 at half-time.
Wests and Souths are now equal fourth on the competition ladder, one win below the two joint frontrunners.
LADDER: Maitland, Lakes 16; Central 15; Souths, Wests 14; Cessnock, Kurri 10; Macquarie 7.