APIA Leichhardt Tigers ended their PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s campaign in spectacular fashion after a Jordan Murray hat trick helped Danial Cummins’ side to an emphatic 4-1 win over Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park.
The former Wollongong forward delivered the match’s breakthrough moment early in the second half to turn home Brendan Hooper’s header on the penalty spot before converting his second on the counter attack following an incisive dart forward from Tasuku Sekiya.
Murray’s treble was complete midway through the second half after he capped another lethal APIA transition with a smooth turn and finish inside the box, while Sean Symons added further gloss to the scoreline with a thunderous strike from long-range.
A late consolation in the form of Nicholas Littler’s superb diving header was the only imperfection on a bright afternoon for the Lambert Park faithful as they bid farewell to the 2016 season in style.
There was undoubtedly a similar frustrating feeling of untapped potential in the Sutherland camp, who suffered only their second loss from their last eight games to round off an admirable late-season resuscitation.
Carlos Villazon’s side had claimed six wins from their last seven prior to the match to spark an unlikely surge from lower-table obscurity to the brink of the finals.
And despite the Chilean frenetically barking instructions from the sideline, Sutherland never truly looked capable of completing their remarkable dash into the finals series as they surrendered to APIA’s second half onslaught.
The Sharks were relying on a Wollongong win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles to maintain their slim finals aspirations, but with Brian Brown’s men routinely dispatching the Wolves 2-0 on the South Coast it proved to be an underwhelming finale to the regular season in the finals complexion.
Sutherland ought to have pressed their case harder – the visitors enjoyed the best chance of the first half and one of few genuine opportunities when Jack Press rounded Blake Tuxford early on, but with the APIA shot stopper stranded, Press’ shot bounced off the underside of the far post.
Tuxford was rarely troubled following that brief moment of concern, with the bulk of the encounter’s action arriving at the other end where APIA ran in four second half goals in little over twenty minutes.
The APIA Leichhardt manager Danial Cummins’ praised his charges for laying down a marker ahead of the 2017 campaign, for which the former Under 20’s coach holds high expectations.
“It was a great way to end the season but also one of the most frustrating matches to watch because of what might have been”, said Cummins.
“We had several of our young players come in and excel which was also great to see. Everyone knows what I want from them next year and we’ve certainly set the bar high today”.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 4 (Murray 51’, 61’, 75’, Symons 77’)
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Littler 83’)
Sunday 14th August, 2016
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 14. Matthew Cook (20. Tasuku Sekiya 25’) , 12. Dominic Cox, 3. Paul Galimi, 5. Brendan Hooper, 19. Brandon Lundy, 2. Nathan Millgate, 11. Jordan Murray, 23. Nicholas Olsen, 10. Franco Parisi, 16. Sean Symons, 50. Blake Tuxford
Substitutes Not Used: 9. Duncan Stewart, 7. Julian Francis Van Den Berg, 1. Matthew Williamson, 6. Matthew Stewart
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
Sutherland Sharks: 10. Joshua Da Silva (17. James Andrew 67’), 1. Nathan Denham, 20. Mitchell Farmer, 19. Callum Fitzpatrick (16. Laureano Gomez Castro 64’), 6. Matthew Gordon, 35. Tomohiro Kajiyama (23. Stephen Hayes 58’), 4. Stephen Kayes, 5. Nicholas Littler, 8. Christopher McStay, 15. Perry Moustakas, 7. Jack Press
Substitutes Not Used: 21. Nikolas Loe, 12. Lukas Stergiou
Yellow Cards: 7. Jack Press 32’
Red Cards: N/A
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition reporter Jacob WIndon