Shoalhaven out to tame Bulls in Illawarra rugby round two

Forwards battle: Tom Horton and Shoalhaven are preparing to face a disciplined University forward pack on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean.
Forwards battle: Tom Horton and Shoalhaven are preparing to face a disciplined University forward pack on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean.

Shoalhaven will aim to build on last weekend’s enterprising performance when they take on University in the second round of Illawarra rugby on Saturday.  

The Shoalies recorded a 22-19 victory over Campbelltown in their round one match while the Bulls pulled off a shock win over defending premiers Avondale, running over the top of the Wombats to record a 21-5 victory. 

Shoalhaven coach Paul Connor is confident his team’s backs possess the attacking flair to slice through the Uni defence. 

“Our strength is in our backs, we play a fairly expansive style of game,” Connor said. “As long as our forwards can win enough ball, our backs can do the job for us.

“What was evident last weekend was we largely contained the Campbelltown forwards and our backs put us on the front foot.”

Uni coach Dion Miller has spent the week preparing his side to handle the Shoalhaven style of play and knows the Bulls must aim up in defence to back up last week’s win.

“Shoalhaven are a very strong team across the park,” Miller said. “They have big strong forwards and fine running backs. We’ll have to concentrate on matching last week’s performance this Saturday to get the win.”

Contesting their 50th season, an influx of new talent has strengthened the Shoalhaven first grade side, with a number of former juniors returning to the club. 

“We’ve had quite a few changes,” Connor said. “We have five new forwards and five new backs, so a lot of changeover from last year.

“We’ve had some boys come back to the club after some years playing league and some ex-juniors who have come back to the area and rejoined the club.”

While the side has benefited from the new arrivals, Connor concedes combinations will take time to gel.

“There’s so many new combinations on the weekend, we didn’t do too much in the way of trials, we’ll just get better as we progress through the season.” 

Shoalhaven struggled in the set piece at times last weekend, with the Harlequins dominating at scrum time. Connor knows his team must improve against a talented University pack. 

“Off the back of beating Avondale, they’re in a very good place. I would think they are going to be technically strong and well structured, they do the simple things well, that’s their strength.

“I think our combinations will improve, we struggled at set piece, specifically at the scrum, last week. We’re working on that this week at training. It nearly lost us the game, they started to dominate our scrum so we’ll certainly have to improve our scrum for University.”

Elsewhere this weekend, Avondale will aim to bounce back from last week’s loss to University when they travel north to face Campbelltown.

After defeating Camden last weekend, Kiama will aim to go two from two when they take on Tech Waratahs. The Waratahs were defeated 37-19 by Bowral in last week’s opening round match.

Last year’s grand finalists Vikings will host Camden in what is likely to be a tough battle at Vikings Rugby Ground. 

Vikings were impressive in their 32-21 victory over Shamrocks last weekend, controlling the match from start to finish. The team brings back much the same side as last season and are yet again shaping as a premiership contender.

Shamrocks will have an opportunity to bounce back from their defeat when they travel south to face Bowral.

  • Illawarra Rugby Round Two

Saturday April 14: CAMPBELLTOWN HARLEQUINS v AVONDALE at Campbelltown Showground, SHOALHAVEN v UNIVERSITY at Shoalhaven Rugby Ground, WOLLONGONG TECH WARATAHS v KIAMA at Saunders Oval, VIKINGS v CAMDEN at Vikings Rugby Ground, BOWRAL v SHAMROCKS at Eridge Park.