ILLAWARRA COAL LEAGUE
Out of sight, out of mind in the opening rounds of the competition, Collegians showed they are still the team to beat in 2014 with a convincing 34-24 victory over Wests at Parrish Park on Sunday.
Fullback Kyle Eather was outstanding for the Dogs, scoring three tries, two of them in a near faultless first-half performance that saw the defending premiers lead 22-12 at half-time.
Coach Reece Simmonds praised his side's first-half execution after three weeks without a game.
"Our first half was nearly flawless," Simmonds said.
"Our effort in the first game against Thirroul was there but the execution was poor.
"Today we came in just above 80 per cent [completions] in the first half."
Simmonds had to endure some nervous moments as the Devils mounted a comeback late in the match but was happy his side was able to close the game out.
"They got on top there for the first 20 [minutes] of the second half and our guys were good enough to hang in and tough it out," he said.
"It shows great character especially when we've only played the one game. I thought we were going to hurt towards the back end of that [second] half but the boys stuck with it and got the result."
Collies opened the scoring after just six minutes when winger Tyron Cranston leapt above opposite Lance Wright to pull down a deft Sam Duggan kick for a 4-0 lead.
They kicked further ahead at 10-0 when Duggan put Eather over next to the posts only minutes later.
The Devils hit back midway through the half when Dylan Laurie charged onto a Nathan Dureau short ball to peg the lead back to 10-6.
Collegians surged away again when Cranston split the Wests defence and was brought down just short of the line. Duggan grubbered from dummy-half, allowing Alipate Noilea to score for a 16-6 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining Collies centre Junior Teleni broke open the Devils' defence and produced a brilliant flick pass to allow Eather to finish under the posts for a commanding 22-6 lead. A try to Danny Williams on the stroke of half-time kept Wests in the contest at 22-12.
Wests dominated early possession in the second half and stormed back into the match with Williams' second try that closed the gap to 22-18.
Starved of possession and field position, Collies regained control of the match when Eather stormed onto an offload from Kane Skarratts and found Duggan for the finish and secure a 28-18 lead.
With time ebbing away, Devil half James Smart tried a chip-kick that looked ominous for the Collies defence only for Eather to swoop and run 60 metres for the match-winning try at 34-18.
A late try to Dylan Laurie closed the gap back to 10 but the defending premiers were just too good.
Scrambled offering has Butchers’ skipper asking questions
DAPTO produced their best performance of the season but it wasn’t enough to topple Thirroul at Gibson Park on Saturday.
The match was in the balance deep into the second half when some class touches from Butchers skipper Nathan Fien and five-eighth Nathan Wynn, who was close to best on ground, sealed the 24-4 victory.
The Canaries were willing in a match that had several fiery moments but the loss continued a worrying inability to convert pressure into points.
Centre Deejay Harris, who was Dapto’s most potent attacking weapon throughout the afternoon, scored midway through the first half to bring the score to 6-4 but the Canaries couldn’t cross again despite plenty of opportunities in the Butchers half.
Thirroul skipper Nathan Fien was critical of his side’s attack.
‘‘We made it hard on ourselves today. We made a lot of errors and just kept inviting them back into the game,’’ Fien said.
‘‘It’s great that we got the two points at home in the big scheme of things when we come up against Wests and Collies and Helensburgh again we’re going to need to be a lot better than that.’’
Thirroul scored the first points of the afternoon through centre Damien Blanch who strolled over from a beautiful long ball from Nathan Wynn. Reece Jaeger’s conversion gave the Butchers a 6-0 lead.
Harris hit back for Dapto when he barged over in the right-hand corner from a Lulia Lulia offload to peg the lead back to two at 6-4.
After struggling to hold possession for much of the half the Butchers were able to extend their lead minutes out from half-time when Blanch drew two defenders and put Denan Kemp, who was making his Butchers debut, over in the right corner for a 12-4 half-time lead.
With the match still in balance midway through the second half Wynn took to the air launching an aerial assault on Dapto fullback Troy Pieper who spilled a spiral bomb metres out from his own line to allow James Spencer to pick up the scraps and score for an 18-4 lead.
Fien punctuated the effort with a 40-20 kick and a lovely dummy-half pass for Pat Franks to score and complete the 24-8 victory.