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ILLAWARRA COAL LEAGUE
Illawarra Coal League officials have vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into two all-in-brawls between Thirroul and Wests on Saturday at Gibson Park.
The Butchers won a heated top-of-the-table showdown 26-20, delighting a big home crowd and maintaining their unbeaten record.
Simmering tension boiled over in the second half when Thirroul captain-coach Nathan Fien, resenting a late tackle, tangled with Wests player-coach Jason Ryles, who was making his first on-field appearance of the season.
Players ran from all directions to join in, leading to the sending off of Wests lock Nick Mastro and Thirroul interchange player Andrew McCarthy.
Fien and Ryles were also punished for their exchange, each receiving 10 minutes in the sin bin.
A second melee erupted moments after the full-time siren sounded before the teams eventually went their separate ways.
McCarthy and Mastro have a date with the judiciary this week.
A Coal League spokesman confirmed on Sunday that video footage and match reports would be scrutinised to determine if other players would be charged with Code of Conduct breaches.
The spokeman said there were also concerns that spectators made inflammatory comments when the second fight spilled over the sideline.
Fien believes the controversial clash was essentially a case of two passionate teams bringing the best out in each other.
"The rivalry's obviously there, and you can expect that with the two sides at the top of the table," the veteran playmaker said.
"There was a couple of incidents that occurred throughout the game but that's footy.
"I can't really comment because I was involved with Jason Ryles at one stage and I haven't seen any video yet, so I'm not overly sure what transpired in a couple of those events, but it's footy.
''We'll have to wait what comes out of the judiciary in terms of what what actions will be taken. Rylesy and I shook hands after the match and it stays on the field, so it's all good. That's how I approach my footy."
Thirroul powered to a 14-0 half-time lead, only for Wests to work their way back into contention.
"Defensively, we were really strong in the first half, and our execution of plays was pretty spot on," Fien said.
"It was a good win for us and it let us know where we're at but we've still got a tough couple of weeks coming up with Collies and Helensburgh.
"We're really happy with how we're going, and to be winning games when I know we can play a bit better, it's very pleasing."
Dapto notched their first win with Saturday's 46-22 defeat of Corrimal, while Helensburgh beat premiers Collegians 30-12 in Sunday's 2013 grand final rematch.