REIGNING premiers Dapto made a huge statement in their title defence with a 31-0 demolition of their 2016 grand final combatants Wests at Dapto Showground on Saturday.
The Canaries led 6-0 deep in the first stanza before a Jason Raper field-goal and a second first-half try to Keith Lulia inside the final nine minutes saw the hosts take an 11-0 lead into the break.
They hit top gear in the second, running in four more unanswered tries with the Devils barely troubling them in response.
“It was a great effort, the commitment from the boys for the full 80 minutes was terrific,” captain-coach Michael Henderson said post-match.
“I don’t think we had a bad player.
“We gave them some field position to start the game and gave them some opportunities but we hung tough and defended our line and, once we got some ascendancy, we went on with it.
“As a group we’re probably a bit more focused on the little things we need to do than we were a month ago. We just want to keep improving and doing the things we need to do to win big games and get into good habits.
“We went into the game with a plan of being boring, playing through the middle and wearing them down and in the end that’s what happened.
“At the back-end of the game we scored a few points through weight of possession and field position.”
Much of the interest heading into the clash centred on how the Canaries would fare without attacking linchpin Beau Henry, who injured his knee in his side’s win over Helensburgh last week.
Fans needn’t have worried, with another masterful performance from Jason Raper and mature showing from young-gun Troy Pieper filling the void behind a dominant forward pack.
Henry remains a chance to return this season, but Henderson said winning without the former NRL half was confidence booster.
“It’s good [Henry] didn’t do his ACL but he’s done just about everything else in there,” Henderson said.
“He’s going to be out for an extended time, we're not sure how long, but hopefully we get him back form the semis.
“He’ll do everything he can to do that but, if not, we’ve got plenty of quality boys and and a lot of spirit so we’ll be sweet. Winning like that without Beauy will give the boys a lot of belief and a lot of confidence.”
Lulia crossed for his first midway through and even first half before Raper’s field-goal extended the margin beyond a converted try. Lulia had his second in the next set to push the margin out to 11 at halftime.
Rob Buaserau had a double midway through the second stanza before late tries to Matt Handcock – who was close to best on ground – and Raper sealed the deal.
Elsewhere in the league, Helensburgh managed their second win of the season, upsetting Thirroul 20-18 at Rex Jackson Oval while Berkeley retained the Tackling Domestic Violence Shield at home with a 28-24 win over Corrimal.