The crowd at Campbelltown were left scratching their heads at how Auburn managed to escape with a thrilling 26-22 victory over a desperately unlucky Western Suburbs Magpies last Saturday.

Head Coach Leo Epifania thought his side had the upper hand for most of what can only be best described as a very tight match, but some crucial errors in the last ten minutes cost his team dearly.

Going into the match with seven players missing from the previous round due to injury was always going to be a big ask against the more fancied Auburn Warriors but he was proud of the way the boys took up the challenge, they never gave up.

The Magpies came out flying with back to back penalties seeing them held up on three minutes. From their next set, Nathan Waters placed a bomb perfectly for Tala Mapesone to reach above the pack to open the scoring. Michael Stevens slotted the touchline conversion and, after as many minutes, Wests led 6-0.

The momentum swung almost immediately to the Warriors; however the Magpie defence held firm until the 18th minute, when Chris Salem took the opportunity to wrap around the play the ball and touch down, a right foot step proving elusive for the Magpie markers on a slippery surface. Lindon McGrady was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt, Wests leading 6-4 at the quarter mark.

Wests nearly hit back on their next set, however the grubber rolled dead. Rather than embracing their chance, Auburn threw caution to the wind, and a wayward pass found Tala Mapesone standing in the Warriors backline, the Wests flanker having too much speed over 50 metres for the cover. Stevens added the extras, Wests out to 12-4 after 25 minutes. Auburn had a golden opportunity to hit back almost immediately, but Wests were able to knock the ball loose from their grasp.

The game ground to a stalemate until four minutes to the break, when a floating ball from Gerard McCallum found a steaming Heka Nanai running an almost perfect line to get Auburn within a single try. McGrady halved the Wests lead again and the Magpies, although with one last opportunity to score, went to the sheds up 12-10.

After trading penalties to start the second stanza, the Warriors settled first, with a fantastic pass from Lindon McGrady sending Chris Salem in for his second of the day. McGrady potted the conversion, Auburn hitting the lead for the first time 16-12 six minutes into the second half.

Neither side could capitalise on their scoring chances for a lengthy period of the second half, with Auburn’s line speed match by Wests’ physicality without the ball. However, Auburn’s line speed proved their undoing at the hour mark, with a left hand spread from Wests finding some gaps in the line, Sam Aiga taking advantage to dart down the flank and grab a try. Stevens sprayed the conversion attempt wide, Wests locking the game up with 20 to go.

The black and whites quickly had another five minutes later. A last tackle kick from Stevens rebounded off the Warriors, catching everyone standing still except for Magpies hooker Dayne Craig, who bolted through to touch down under the posts. Stevens successfully converted, Wests seizing the momentum to lead by six with 15 minutes to play.

Wests played a smart grinding game to try and see the 80 minutes out from there, however Auburn found their way back in to the contest with a bad bounce allowing Ray Tafokitau to bring Auburn to within two points. McGrady tied the game up from adjacent to the posts.

With time running down, Wests set themselves to attack Auburn’s halves who were setting for the point. However, Warriors hooker Luke Ferry had other ideas, and scooted from dummy half to catch the Wests markers unawares to seal the match. Although Lindon McGrady was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt, Auburn hung on to record a most unlikely victory.

For Auburn, Gerard McCallum, Lindon McGrady and Luke Ferry were head and shoulders above the rest. For Wests Magpies Leos Best three were Adrian Ha’angana, Dayne Craig and Dean Rysko.

Next weekend, Auburn host Guildford at Lidcombe, while Wests head up the Northern Road to face off against Windsor.

AUBURN 26 (Chris Salem 2, Luke Ferry, Heka Nani, Ray Tafokitau tries; Lindon McGrady 3 from 5) def WESTERN SUBURBS 22 (Tala Mapesone 2, Sam Aiga, Dayne Craig tries; Michael Stevens 3 from 4)

Penalties: Wests 7 Auburn 8.

Halftime: Wests 12 Auburn 10

Western Suburbs
1. Chris Standing
2. Tuiniua Paiaaua
3. Sam Aiga
4. Jerome Mose
5. Tala Mapesone
6. Michael Stevens
7. Nathan Waters
8. Dean Rysko
9. Dayne Craig
18. Shane Lalogafau
11. Mason Talolua
20. Adrian Haangana
13. Sonny Bristow

14. Frederick Tevaga
15. David Atuau
16. Sean Connor
19. Luke Williams

Auburn Warriors

1. Cliff Nye
23. Keiron Pope
3. Ray Tafokitau
4. Heka Nanai
5. Harmony Hunt
6. Lindon McGrady
22. Gerard McCallum
8. Sione Tovo
9. Luke Ferry
20. Tupou Iongi
19. Rajan Opetai-Halls
12. Chris Salem
13. Damien Mostyn

14. Henry Ah-Sam
15. Will Mitchell
16. Jayson Gerecs
17. Daniel Tuulau