Illawarra league front-runners set to collide after huge wins

BIG TALLY: Dapto fullback Jason Raper scored three tries and kicked seven goals for a personal haul of 26 points in the Canaries 50-6 win over Thirroul. Picture: Robert Peet
BIG TALLY: Dapto fullback Jason Raper scored three tries and kicked seven goals for a personal haul of 26 points in the Canaries 50-6 win over Thirroul. Picture: Robert Peet

ANOTHER week, another emphatic statement from the reigning premiers. That’s all that was left to say after Dapto hammered Thirroul 50-6 at Dapto Showground on Saturday.

In what was a second versus third clash, the Canaries exacted some revenge on the Butchers who handed them their only non-finals defeat in more than a season in round three.

It was a low-scoring grind on that occasion, but Saturday’s clash barely resembled it, with the Canaries leading 22-0 at halftime and going on with it in the second to hand their Butchers their third straight loss.

Leading Paul McGregor Medal candidate Jason Raper had a day out with a hat-trick of tries and seven goals making up his personal haul of 26 points.

The Canaries have now managed a combined total of 255 points in their last five outings while conceding just 34, with an 77th-minute intercept try to Butchers winger Dan Francis the only blemish on their sheet on Saturday.

It’s that fact that is most important to captain-coach Michael Henderson.

“That [defensive] scoreline is what’s going to win you the big games,” Henderson said.

“It’s not the 40 or 50 points because you’re not going to get those in the big games so it’s really pleasing that we’re defending well and defending on our line really well.

“The first 20 minutes we gave up some poor field position through silly penalties but our defence was really good again.

“That’s the standard now and we’ve got to continue that. We can’t be complacent because it’s just going to get harder every game from here on.”

It sets up a mouth-watering pair of clashes in the space of seven days between Dapto and league-leaders Collegians who easily accounted for Berkeley 52-8 on Saturday.

“We’ve got [Collegians] two weeks in a row so it’ll give us a couple of games to figure each other out I suppose,” Henderson said.

“They’ve obviously been great all year, they’re undefeated. They’re going to be really tough and we’re going to have to be right on our game. 

“We’ve only got three games until the semis so we want to keep improving every game. If we keep doing that we’ve got plenty of confidence in our ability.”

Prop Jamie Dunning got the ball rolling for the hosts when he barged across from close range and the Canaries led 12-0 when Rob Buaserau burrowed over from dummy-half.

Keith Lulia scored a solo try and laid on another for winger Josh Bryant in the latter part of the opening stanza to ensure his side took a handy 22-point buffer into the break.

Raper had his first immediately following the resumption and Joel Reddy scored in the next set to effectively put the result to bed.

Raper posted two more tries before Francis’ intercept effort saw the visitors avoid the ignominy of being shout out.

Dillon Capaan scored on the fulltime siren to round out the scoring.

Elsewhere, Wests and Corrimal were locked up at 10-all at halftime before the Devils ground out a 26-20 win to leapfrog the Butchers into third spot.