Final-round tune-up for Illawarra League title aspirants

IT will have no impact on the make-up of the top four, but the final round of the Illawarra League season is shaping as an important one for three of the four premiership contenders.

Wests ensured they will take plenty of momentum into what will be a week-one minor semi-final showdown with Thirroul with an impressive win over Collegians last week.

It leaves the second-placed Dogs looking to recapture top form against Corrimal ahead of the major semi-final against Dapto in a fortnight.

The league-leading Canaries will be looking to do the same when they travel to Helensburgh while fourth-placed Thirroul will host last-placed Berkeley at home fresh off a 70-point pasting of Corrimal last week.

It was the Butchers first win since round seven having dropped away games to Helensburgh, Collegians and Dapto before fighting out a 14-all draw with Wests in round 12.

Centre Tom Simpson, who ran in four of his side’s 13 tries, said the return to form was a timely one so close to finals.

“I think it was building for a while,” Simpson said.

“We hit a bit of a rough patch there for a while, we dropped a game to Helensburgh and one against Collies we probably should’ve won – we were up 22-8 at halftime. 

“We were just never really in that game against Dapto [in round 11]. We got to training and Jacko [coach Jarrod Costello] said ‘let’s just get back to basics, run hard tackle hard’ all that sort of stuff.

“We had that close draw with Wests and I think it’s what we really needed to get the season back on the move.

“Finals are around the corner and if we want to be legit contenders we needed to make a statement.

“In the Corrimal game we did everything right all week, we had a good preparation and that’s the side we really are. When we’re on, we’re right on.”

The Butchers notched early season wins over Dapto and Wests and have been in winning positions in two losses to Collegians with Simpson saying belief never wavered in a patchy run of form.

“We started the season well and I think every side hits a bit of a rough patch at some stage,” Simpson said.

“Some of those losses were tough but we always knew we could bounce back from them because we’re hungry and we’re aiming for a big finish to the year.

“We always aimed to make finals but Johnno [captain Joel Johnson] spoke to us a month or so ago and really drove home that we go deep into the finals and give this comp a red-hot crack.

“We can do that if we play our best footy. The comp’s like that this year, any side that comes out and plays their best footy and sticks to their plan can beat anyone.”

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